Equine rescue 101: Aiding a downed horse
Practitioners must protect rescuers as well as rescuees
Jan 01, 2006
Each year, veterinarians are called to respond to cases to aid horses that have fallen into neighborhood pools or through ice on frozen northern ponds. Some horses slip, fall or slide while out on trails and become trapped or entangled in locations or on terrain that make it impossible for the animal to save itself. Older horses or horses suffering from a variety of diseases can become recumbent and unable to get up without assistance. Theses horses might be down and wedged in their stalls, or they can be out at pasture stuck in ravines or creeks, or exposed to extremes in weather.
"No emergency rescue is ever the same," Gimenez says.
Thus, a wide variety of skills and techniques must be practiced and learned. To this end TLAER offers three-day seminars at locations across the country throughout the year. These seminars are offered to fire and rescue personnel and to veterinarians and animal-control workers. Because large-animal rescue requires a coordinated effort among many individuals, Dr. Gimenez recommends that veterinarians become familiar with the fire departments and rescue teams in the area that are interested in and trained at equine rescue because the majority of these units receive no such training. When there is a problem and a downed horse needs assistance, you need to know who to call.
Off the beaten path
There are many possible reasons for a horse to become recumbent.
"Complications associated with old age and weather-related problems are the two most common reasons for recumbent horses seen in our area," Slovis says.
Mud, ice and snow top the list of environmental hazards. Arthritis can cause some horses to have extreme difficulty getting up after lying down for even short periods of time. Added to the arthritis problems can be complications with poor weight gain and muscle loss, which makes older horses more prone to difficulty getting up and down — especially in colder weather. Occasionally, these older horses will get down in a field or stall and exhaust themselves trying to rise before they are found by stable managers or caretakers. An older horse with a few relatively minor problems can be rendered too weak from struggling to get up on its own.