Fire authorities warn of risks around trapped horses

The death of a man trying to assist a distressed horse while transporting the animal by road has prompted fire authorities in Britain to issue advice.

Both Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Chief Fire Officers Association were commenting following the death of the 51-year-old, who was kicked to death in Lancashire.

He had pulled over alongside the A56 at Haslingdenhad and entered the horse box he was towing to assist a distressed horse, which had managed to dislodge a partition.

It is understood he suffered a kick to the head, and his wife suffered a broken leg in trying to assist him. The man died at the scene.

The fire authorities urged motorists to call emergency services and wait for emergency help if they become involved in a road traffic collision while towing a horse box, rather than trying to calm the horse themselves.

Animal rescue specialist Russell Metcalfe, who works for the Cambridgeshire service, said incidents involving horse transportation differed greatly from regular road traffic collisions.

“When things go wrong with horses, there is a significant chance of members of the public placing themselves in immense danger attempting to resolve the situation.

“In most cases horses that are trapped in vehicles or in a compromised position require professional assistance from trained responders, including large-animal vets and animal rescue teams from the fire and rescue service.”

In order for horses to have the best chance of being rescued with minimal injury and distress, the fire service recommends the following actions:

      • Ensure no-one is tempted to enter a horse box to assist a horse as this may lead to injury of both the horse and person.
      • Do not be tempted to open doors and ramps – this invites a stressed horse to strive for that perceived escape route and may make the situation much worse.
      • Try to stay calm as this will give reassurance to the horse and help you to think more clearly.
      • Summon fire service by dialling the emergency number and asking for the animal rescue team. Thoroughly describe the situation and your location.
      • Summon your own large-animal vet, or if you are away from home, inform the fire control operator and they will contact an equine vet from a list of those willing to attend emergencies.
      • Try to keep the scene as calm as possible. It is most likely that the Fire Service and vet will utilise heavy sedation or anaesthesia in order to rescue the horse as safely as possible and for this to work most effectively requires the least amount of adrenaline to be released by the horse. The more stress and panic, the more adrenaline is released.
      • Give the attending animal rescue team leader all the information they need to make the right decisions, for instance they are likely to ask you for details of:
        • Breed, age, sex.
        • Normal demeanour.
        • Medical history and any current conditions.
        • Dislikes such as an aversion to men, blindfolds etc.
        • What happened to cause the situation, if known, and any other information that might be relevant.
        • The preferred final safe and secure destination for the horse after rescue.

The fire authorities said people should, above all, consider their own safety and the safety of those around them as a trapped horse will not behave in the way they might expect.


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