First Responders Learn Horse Handling Basics at Virginia Tech

Emergency personnel often have their first experience handling horses when they are called to the scene of a trailer collision, barn fire, or other crisis situation.

In order to better prepare fire, police, and medical professionals for dealing with accidents involving equines, an Emergency Responder Horse Handling Training program was held on Monday, March 17, as a cooperative effort between Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center and the Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

Thirteen first responders from throughout Northern Virginia participated in the four-hour educational event which was held at the center's campus in Middleburg. Tutorials on horse behavior, handling, tack, and basic first aid were lead by Jennifer Brown, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, clinical assistant professor in equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, and Shea Porr, PhD, northern district equine extension agent at the Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

Brown and Porr guided attendees through a verbal analysis of various critical scenarios involving horses. Participants also caught and released horses in stalls and paddocks, tied horses using quick-release knots, and lead horses to safe zones.

" Trailer accidents and barn fires can be frightening and chaotic situations, but training can provide the knowledge needed to properly manage these incidents." –Dr. Jennifer Brown
"We've found that emergency personnel often have no experience in rescuing horses," said Brown. "Trailer accidents and barn fires can be frightening and chaotic situations, but training can provide the knowledge needed to properly manage these incidents."

According to Porr, the program was established to fulfill a need in Virginia's equine-dense counties of Loudoun, Prince William, Fauquier, Clarke, Warren, Rappahannock, Culpeper, and Stafford. The course has been completed by more than 66 emergency responders.

"The result is that we now have many local first responders who are better able to handle horses in critical situations," said Porr. "With the large number of horses in Northern Virginia, this training should be of great benefit to the area's equine community."

Virginia Tech's Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center's mission is to advance the health and well-being of the horse through graduate education for equine professionals, nutritional and pasture management research, and community educational programs. Located in Middleburg, Va., the center is one of 13 Agricultural Research and Extension Centers across the state.

Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is a premier full-service equine hospital located in Leesburg, Va., that offers advanced specialty care, 24-hour emergency treatment and diagnostic services for all ages and breeds of horses. One of three campuses that comprise the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, the center and its team of equine specialists are committed to providing exceptional treatment to patients, superior service to clients, and cutting-edge research to the equine industry.

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