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2002/06/12

Memphis Area EMS Get Hands On Equine Training by Tom Burriss Sometimes, accidents do happen. If you own horses you know this much is true. When you are among other horse people, the danger is more easily contained, especially from the perspective that someone is around that can handle a horse in an emergency situation. What if you are travelling though. Going through the city or parts unknown, it may be difficult to know who will tend to your horse or if it would be handled properly by emergency personnel. In Memphis, steps have been taken to avert the unknown for emergency and first alert professionals. For the past five years, the Shelby Farms Equestrian Alliance have been putting on training seminars to acquaint emergency workers with how to handle horses in the event of an accident. "You won't be a whisperer' after this, but you will be able to help in an emergency situation," said training speaker, Dolly Gibbons, to her class. Two sessions were held at the the Shelby Show Place Arena on May 22 for classes comprises of 19 firefighters, law enforcement, animal control officers, interstate help units, and department of transportation workers. The seminar geared for those unfamiliar with horses, introduced such things as touching, leading, haltering, catching, loading and unloading horses. Co-coordinator of the event, Marcia Morgan, explained that the goal is to impart some of what horse owners know as common sense to people who are unfamiliar with horses. Some practical points were given in how to deal with horses in blankets and fly covers, how to make a halter from objects that just might be lying around, dealing and treating a shocky horse, and insight into the nature of horses, such as their flight or fight reactions. "I thought horses were more difficult than they actually are," commented Angela Klein of Bartlett Animal Control. Class members were asked to halter and unhalter horses, lead them in the arena by themselves and, at one point, while being scared from behind to help them see and handle a horse who may be jumpy. "If you watch the Belmont or the Preakness," says SFEA president Peggy Hart, "watch how the people who bring those horses in. Most are stallions who geared up to go." Also, there was some practical advice given. For instance, when horses are involved in an emergency scene, alert the dispatcher to advise other responders to arrive with a minimal amount of disturbance, lights and sirens, if possible. If a trailer is involved, look into the trailer to see what is in it. "It might be empty and you get lucky," said Gibbons. Of course you need to be sure you are not just looking in a tack room, or opening a door with a now agitated dog. Check a window first. Dangers to animals may also exist with trailers outfitted with living quarters from such fire hazards as propane and electricity. Of course there is also the possibility that there may have been people travelling in the trailer. "Working for a county fire department we are most likely going to experience such a need," commented Annette Toarmina of the Bartlett Fire Department. "I think every county firefighter should attend this course at least once." The success of the program, which has been underwritten by the Review, is due in large part to the volunteers who donate time and horses to the event. This year nine additional people made the investment. A testament to the use of the program was shared by volunteer Caryn Finefrock. A police officer called two weeks after attending last year's course to tell them that he was able to immediately put his new knowledge to work at scene of an accident which involved a horse. Brynda Read, co-coordinator, related that as of last year 123 first alert personnel had come through the course.

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