Virginia???s emergency responders get horse training

A VT program is training responders on handling distressed horses

April 7, 2008–Emergency personnel often interact with horses for the first time when they are called to the scene of a trailer collision, barn fire or other crisis situation. To better prepare these first responders on how to handle nervous and upset horses, Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center and the Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center are putting together a program that they hope saves equine lives

The first step in the program was an Emergency Responder Horse Handling Training program held March 17. Thirteen first responders from throughout Northern Virginia participated in the four-hour educational event that was held at the center’s campus in Middleburg. Tutorials on horse behavior, handling, tack, and basic first aid were lead by Dr. Jennifer Brown, clinical assistant professor in equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center , and Dr. Shea Porr, 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.

“We’ve found that emergency personnel often have no experience in rescuing horses,” Brown says. “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 is being established to fulfill a need in Virginia’s equine-dense counties of Loudoun, Prince William, Fauquier, Clarke, Warren, Rappahannock, Culpeper, and Stafford. The course, which was also offered on two occasions earlier in the year, 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,” Porr says. “With the large number of horses in Northern Virginia, this training should be of great benefit to the area’s equine community.”


  1. Brillant! Finally someone has some common sense to fix a problem thats needed help for a long time. I’m glad there finally doing it (and starting in my area!) but it definately needs to go to other parts of the country.


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