By: Ashley Galen
Oregon State University, Class of 2013
Last summer I participated in an externship at a local equine practice where I met Dr. Shannon Findley, a recent graduate of UC Davis with a lot of enthusiasm for equine emergency response. During veterinary school she took courses in large animal rescue and participated in their Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT). Her drive to spread awareness to clients and fellow aid workers, veterinarians and firemen alike, showed me how important it is to be prepared for emergency situations.
This drove me to set up an SC-AAEP workshop at Oregon State on equine emergency response, focusing on what can be done in an average practice to be prepared for a disaster of any magnitude. Students at Oregon State are not trained in the field of disaster preparedness and this workshop was instrumental in filling that void in our curriculum.
The talk covered many different aspects of equine emergency response including: where we can go to take courses in large animal rescue, basic supplies necessary and examples of various types of rescues, complete with case studies. Dr. Findley also stressed the importance of having a relationship with your local fire department and/or first responders so that they can help you in times of an emergency.
One of the more interesting and practical cases Dr. Findley presented was about a duo who had been riding in Eastern Oregon when the trail collapsed beneath them, sending the horse and rider down a steep hill. The horse became lodged against a tree unable to get up. When Dr. Findley arrived many firefighters were already onsite and unsure of the appropriate course of action. Through some swift maneuvering, she was able to free the horse (using a front assist and a tail tie) and slide him down the hill to a flat area. Here the horse was able to stand and rider and horse were reunited. While this is not how all the stories end, it is encouraging to hear that even without a helicopter and thousands of dollars worth of rescue equipment you can still save many horses from precarious situations.
After an engaging lecture presentation, the workshop concluded with an interactive wet lab. With the help of a willing equine volunteer, Dr. Findley demonstrated how to make a front and hind assist using climbing webbing. She also showed us how to make a halter out of rope in an emergency and how to make a quick tail tie. Then, with the assistance of a student acting as “the horse”, Dr. Findley demonstrated the proper way to flip over a down horse. In case you were curious, slide the rope or climbing webbing under the upper limbs (radius and tibia) of the down legs and then pull, with one person on each end, moving in an arc joining at the dorsum of the horse. This is a much safer and effective way to flip a horse than the classic method of using their feet as levers. After demonstrating these techniques, Dr. Findley worked individually with students to teach knot tying and how to place the harness on the volunteer horse.
Overall this was a great workshop and I would like to thank the SAVMA Public Health and Community Outreach Committee for sponsoring it. If you wish to learn more, the Large Animal Rescue Company, based out of California, is a great resource and offer weekend training courses in large animal rescue (http://www.largeanimalrescue.com/).