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Keeping Your Horse Safe By Understanding Large Animal Rescue

Large Animal Rescue (LAR or Technical LAR) is a method of training for emergency responders (especially firefighters) that teaches them how to extricate your horse from a life threatening situation like a trailer rollover, or out of quicksand or off a cliff.

With this training they learn how to keep themselves safe while working with large, possibly injured animals; and how to keep the animals safe, as well. By using leverage, pulleys and straps, and knowing what parts of your horse’s body will support being strapped and hauled, rescuers can avoid doing more damage to your horse than he has already incurred.

Experts agree that the most critical safety issue at the scene of a large animal incident is the responders' lack of knowledge of, and experience around,

large animals. While emergency responders are trained to care for your life and your property, they are typically not trained to care for your animals.

Most horse owners are shocked to learn that, but the focus of law enforcement and fire departments has always been on humans, with the occasional cat-in-a-tree or dog-in-a-drain rescue. While many of their skills and tools work for both animals and humans, they don’t know enough to be safe around the animals and they end up injuring themselves, the animals and possibly bystanders.

Most emergency responders in North America live and work in urban areas and have little contact with large animals such as horses, but thousands pass through their jurisdictions every year. Even working in the downtown area of a large city, sooner or later they could get that dreaded call. A trailer rollover! If they are first to arrive on the scene and assume command, would they know what to do? Most rescue personnel don't. Will they know how to approach what could be a lethal situation for them and the animals involved? .

What to do? As the guardian of your animals it is up to you to be aware of the dangers.

The simple answer is to get proactive. Learn all you can about the safe methods available for rescuing your horse. When you understand that, take the information to your local response agencies – the fire department, police department, and animal control – and to your horse’s veterinarian. Since veterinarians often are called to the scene of an incident they need to know how to “play well with others”. Veterinarians typically work alone, using the animal’s owner as helper. On the scene of a rescue, your vet will need to know how she fits in. LAR has been designed to work within the Incident Command System (ICS), a tool used by response agencies that details the roles within each incident, a common language, and, if more than one agency responds, how the agencies will interact. LAR covers scene safety and management, how to use the equipment already available on most fire engines, and how to improvise.

Because this is specialized training for emergency responders there hasn’t been much information available to horse owners until recently. Now, because disaster information is so prevalent, the word is getting out. Most LAR instructors have their own websites, plus there is a general information site that tells you about LAR, who teaches it, and when and where you can find classes around North America. Its URL is

There are also two books on the subject. One is a technical manual written for emergency responders by two of the most prominent instructors in the field, Drs. Rebecca and Tomas Gimenez, that will be available in the spring. The other book has been written specifically for horse owners. It is filled with pictures and drawings, and details step by step how to extricate your horse from almost any situation. It also includes safe trailering information that may keep you from getting into a dangerous situation. This well-researched book is Save Your Horse! A Horse Owner’s Guide to Large Animal Rescue, by Michelle Staples. This popular book also lists trainers and specialized equipment and tells you how to make your own equipment from supplies on hand.

The choice is yours. Learn the methods, carry the book in your vehicle when you trailer your horse, pass the word to other horse owners and vets, talk to your local responders – or – take your chances that the next incident is not yours and that if you ARE in a wreck you’ll be one of the lucky few whose responders understand what to do for you and your horse.


Read the next horse rescue article on Animal Rights and Your Horse.
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