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