Horse Protection Group Teaches Rescue from Burning Barns

Firefighters in Connecticut are learning how to rescue from a burning building a different type of victim.

The Connecticut Horse Council is offering training sessions on how to remove horses from a barn on fire.

Dave Steele, a volunteer firefighter in Durham for seven years, learned how difficult it can be to rescue an animal weighing between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds. Tiger, a horse at Crystal Wood Stables, stepped on his foot.

Halide Caine, chairwoman of the council's Horse911 initiative, said the incident demonstrates the importance of training.

The horse was calm and willing to go with Steele, she said.

"Imagine a horse stressed out by fire, smoke, flashing lights and sirens, strangers in Darth Vadar gear trying to put a halter on him and get him out of a burning barn," Caine said.

Horse911 advises fire departments to turn off their sirens as they near a barn fire and shut off flashing lights when they arrive to avoid spooking the horses.

The training sessions are intended to provide some horse sense to all fire departments in Connecticut by the end of 2007 and conduct fire safety workshops for barn owners. The council also is forming a team of horse expert volunteers who will go to barn fires if called.

The routine in western movies of slapping horses on the backside, yelling and stampeding them out of a burning barn does not work, Caine said.

"Horses will have a tendency to run back into the barn as they see the stall and barn as a safe place for them," she said. "It's why we advise firefighters to close the barn doors once the horses are out if they can."

Another method depicted by Hollywood that should be avoided is covering a horse's eyes during a fire, Caine said.

"Most horses would react adversely to being a blindfolded," she said.

Barns are a particular concern because they house hay, which burns fast.

"The window of opportunity to get horses out of a barn in which hay is burning is two to three minutes," Caine said.

Horse911 recommends that barn owners provide local fire departments with a drawing of their property and barn, detailing stalls where horses are kept, water and other fire-extinguishing sources and paddocks or enclosures where rescued horses can be placed.

Information also should include people to contact, such as owners of boarded horses.

The primary advice Caine prescribes is that no one should endanger his own life or someone else's to rescue a horse. If the barn is engulfed in fire, it may already be too late to help, she said.

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Information from: New Haven Register, www.ctcentral.com

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