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Back Country Horsemen train first responders on emergency livestock response

The event aimed to help first responders better understand how to handle livestock in an emergency
Instructor Jennifer Woods teaches the first responders how to tie a horse tail knot on June 19, 2018. Heather Norman photo

The North Cariboo chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of B.C. organized a two-day event to train first responders on emergency livestock response on June 18-19.

The training comes after a horse trailer accident last spring, says Rob LaFrance, the chair of the North Cariboo chapter.

“There were first responders there who had no idea what to do.”

And during the wildfires last year, says LaFrance, there were also a number of livestock that wound up misplaced. “This [training] just gives [first responders] some tools to put in their toolbox to help work with it.”

Approximately 15 people attended the event, many coming from different organizations. The North Cariboo Highway Rescue, Bouchie Lake Fire Hall, West Fraser Fire Hall, and Horse and Hay Transport were all in attendance.

LaFrance says Horse and Hay Transport was included because they’re also likely to come across situations where such knowledge would come in handy.

Participants spent the first day learning theory. They learned when to euthanize an injured horse or another animal and when not to, for example. They learned about the different types of trailers and the best way to get horses and cattle out in case of an incident.

“Livestock is a lot different than dealing with humans. They react differently,” says LaFrance. He says it’s important the first responders understand what reactions to expect.

“Some of [the responders] have never been around a horse before,” adds LaFrance. So they spent some time getting familiar with the animals before working with them.

For example, says LaFrance, “a trailer is tipped partially on its side so it’s sitting on a 45-degree angle. There’s horses in the trailer, there’s partitions — which horse do you take out first? Do you tip the trailer up? Or do you get the horses out? Or do you cut the partitions out? So they’re learning what to do.” He added that trailers are all a little different, so they have to go over a number of scenarios.

The responders were taught how to make a halter out of rope – something they’re likely to have in their vehicle – as well as putting the halters on the horses, tying tail knots and teaching them how to get a horse out when it’s stuck behind a fence or caught in an awkward area.

The Back Country Horsemen will be holding another training event in September for the Quesnel Fire Department. For that event, LaFrance is aiming to have fire halls from 100 Mile House to Prince George attend the training.