Equine rescue 101: Aiding a downed horse - DVM
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Equine rescue 101: Aiding a downed horse
Practitioners must protect rescuers as well as rescuees


Despite an array of resources, the equine practitioner still will encounter the horse down in a stall or at pasture and be required to try to get that horse up without a great deal of assistance. Fortunately, there are a number of devices that make that process a bit easier. The rescue glide (B and M Plastics, Greenville, S.C.) is a large, flexible, plastic sheet that easily slides over many surfaces. A recumbent horse can be rolled onto the glide and moved to an area where a sling can be used or to a safer location for treatment or transport. The glide can be used with a sedated horse to move the animal from a cramped stall to a larger area. Some horses can be slid along to an area of safer footing and allowed to stand on their own. Because of the nature of the glide's plastic surface, most horses can be moved realistically using only a few individuals, and these units are standard issue for all equine ambulances used at major equine sporting events.

Slings are also important pieces of equine rescue equipment. The Anderson sling is perhaps the best known of these devices, allowing for a complete supported lift of a horse in normal position. This sling and others like it have been used in helicopter rescues and have been instrumental in many high-profile situations. A very functional sling can be made for less dramatic lifts by using fire-hose material or webbing. A section of the material is fitted around the horse's chest behind the front legs, and another section is fitted in front of the hind legs. The front section is connected to a piece of material that goes around the front of the chest to prevent backward slippage of the support. The webbing can be attached with heavy-duty zip ties or clamps connected with screws and bolts. A heavy metal rod above the horse's back provides an area to connect to a fork lift, tow truck lift, or a block and tackle attached to a strong beam above the horse. This can allow a horse to be gently lifted so that it can regain its feet and possibly resume self support. There are many variations on these types of slings, but obviously, the time to make one and to become familiar with its use is not in an emergency situation.

Many practices have used emergency rescue education meetings as both a practice builder and a means of uniting the equine community. A seminar held at a local barn involving fire/rescue and interested horse owners can be a great way to identify potential helpers for equine rescue situations and to identify you to the local horse community as someone with interest and ability in such situations. There are videos available on trailer rescue, fire rescue and other such situations that can be shown at these meetings. Use this opportunity to build a sling and become proficient in its use. Many practices make their slings available to other veterinarians and rescue units in their areas. Teaching basic horse handling techniques to fire and rescue personnel (many of whom do not know how to halter or lead a horse) can help ensure they will be better able to serve your clients when called to respond to a barn fire or a downed horse.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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