Knowing how to properly rescue a large animal will do more than save the animal; that knowledge can also protect those trying to help it. To teach appropriate skills for handling such situations, the Wisconsin Large Animal Emergency Response partnered with the Friends of Madison Mounted Horse Patrol to hold a large animal rescue techniques clinic June 13 at The Horse First Farm.

“A lot can be learned in a full-day clinic,” said city of Madison police officer Sarah Mulry and Friends member. “The clinic was open to the public; there were a few first responders, horse and dairy owners and a veterinarian who attended. The clinic focused on how to conduct large animal rescue maneuvers safely, so that was the reason many attended as this type of course is not offered very often unless you travel out of state to other national courses.”

Clinic organizer Mulry says the clinic not only teaches participants how to properly rescue a large animal, it emphasizes safety for the rescuers. She remarked many livestock owners, in particular horse owners, want to jump in the trailer because of their connection with their animals.

“They think, ‘That’s my baby,’” said Mulry, “but when humans intervene, they can get hurt. People are put at risk all the time. We always want to keep people safe. The best thing is to give the owners tasks.”

In addition to a two-hour classroom session, the 30 clinic participants received hands-on work with a 1,000 pound horse mannequin, a livestock trailer that can be tipped on its side and other emergency equipment.

Clinic presenter Howard Ketover, DVM, covered scenarios dealing with a downed horse in a trailer, freeing trapped animals and containing loose animals using hazard tape. The instruction included assessing the scene and determining what the animal can communicate about its situation.

“We have to look at what the animal is trying to tell us,” said Ketover.

Clinic participants also learned how to use equipment that’s generally on hand. Those handling livestock tend to use large agricultural equipment in their rescue attempts. However, if the equipment isn’t used correctly, the animal might be freed but could then succumb to injuries incurred during the rescue.

“Large animals can be handled with the tools on hand,” said Ketover. “You just have to know how to use them.”

The idea for providing training in large animal rescue began in 2006 when Ketover realized such techniques were lacking in the veterinary and livestock communities.

“There’s little education in the methods taught in veterinary schools,” said Ketover. “So, I went to other clinics to learn how to help large animals.”

With the training he received, Ketover and fellow board members started WLAER in 2012 with the mission of teaching veterinarians, first responders and animal owners how to safely conduct rescues.

The clinic was a fundraiser for WLAER and the city of Madison Mounted Police Unit. Funds raised from this first-time collaboration are split between WLAER and the Friends group.

The city’s official mounted unit receives support from the Friends group, which raises money to supplement city funds to operate the unit. The Madison Mounted Police Unit has three members already trained in large animal rescue and two are in training.

Started in 1986 by six Madison police officers, the Madison Mounted Police Team was initially an unofficial group. They first rode their personal horses while in uniform in the city’s annual Holiday Parade. With overwhelming approval from the community, the team began training with their horses for on-duty police work, and in 1988, became certified with the National Mounted Officer Training Association.

Budget cuts resulted in the unit becoming disbanded, but it was resurrected in 2007 as the Madison Police Mounted Patrol Unit. The officers assumed most of the costs for equipment and care of the horses. To assist the officers, the nonprofit Friends group was formed to help the mounted patrol officers with expenses. Currently, the unit has two full-time and four part-time officers and six horses.

Videos and photos of the clinic can be found on the Friends of Madison Mounted Horse Patrol’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/madisonmounted. More information is also available on its website: www.madisonmounted.org. Information about Wisconsin Large Animal Emergency Response is on its Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WisLAER or website: www.wlaer.org.

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