College staff rescue life-sized horse model as part of equine emergency training

October 2012

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Two of Writtle College’s staff went on the first ever equine emergency training for vets course delivered by Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.

Dr Heidi Janicke and Dr Richard Cooke donned wetsuits, protective helmets and life jackets to rescue a horse mannequin from a lake outside Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s HQ in Kelvedon.

Twelve vets from across the country used a Hiab specialised crane, strops and floating mats to rescue the life-sized horse model.

Dr Cooke, lecturer in Livestock Production and Research Methods, is not a trained vet but works with large animals in his role at the College’s farm.

He said: “We provide training to the fire and rescue service twice a year to train them in animal rescues, from the animal welfare and management perspective. This complements this course and I’ve really enjoyed being involved.

“It’s been an interesting two days, offering life-like situations, giving us practical, hands-on training.

Vet Dr Janicke, who teaches on the undergraduate and postgraduate equine courses at Writtle, added: “We hope we never are in a situation where we need to rescue our large animals at Writtle but this course has shown us what we need to do to ensure the fire and rescue service can safely rescue our animals, to minimise the distress of the animal and any danger to us.”

Approved by the British Equine Veterinary Association, the course covered how to effectively work with animal rescue teams from the fire and rescue service at equine rescue incidents and how to provide emergency care to rescued horses. Equine clinicians skilled in emergency medicine showed how to triage, sedate and treat a horse from injuries sustained in trauma, such as falling in a ditch or being involved in a road traffic collision.

Scott Meekings, AR3 supervisor – the highest level in animal rescues – and watch manager at South Woodham Ferrers, said the specialist animal rescue unit based in South Woodham Ferrers, with a back-up at Great Baddow, go to more than 60 rescues of large animals a year.

He added: “We classify large animals as any animal larger than a Labrador. We have two ways of rescuing animals, the low tech and high tech ways. The low tech way is manual stropping and dragging of the animal using specialised techniques, working with the vets. The high tech way is to use the Hiab crane, which is specialised equipment adapted to lift the large animals. It has various different safety mechanisms to assist us with large animal rescues.

“When we get called out to an animal rescue it comes under our command procedures. The fire and rescue service will be in charge of all the health and safety within the incident grounds. We need to affect the rescue and work with vets as a team. This training builds up that team approach and shows vets what we are capable of and what we need them to do. The fire service will risk assess the animal in distress and ensure everyone is safely involved.”