Horses can be involved in a range of traumatic accidents and owners and handlers need to be aware of how to respond in these situations. A vet will usually be called and involved in the second stage, immediately after the incident.

What would you do if any of the following happened ?

  • arriving at a show to find the horse’s foot had gone through the trailer floor
  • finding the horse with a serious kick injury in the field
  • a road accident where both horse and rider have fallen on the road and are injured
  • getting caught in barbed wire while out hacking
  • a horse trapped in a ditch, unable to get out

Follow these 5 steps that ensure the handler’s safety and minimise the risk of further injury to the horse.

  1. Keep calm and stay safe – check for risks and do not try to release a trapped horse on your own as it may panic once it is freed.
  2. Assess the situation, including any visible injuries and be able to brief professional helpers when they arrive.
  3. Call for help: the emergency services (fire and rescue) and a vet as appropriate, giving the operator accurate location information
  4. Stabilise the situation – do not move injured people or horses if at all possible.
  5. Give first aid where possible, and be aware of shock, changes in consciousness and deterioration.

The UK emergency services are specifically trained and equipped to deal with large animals and have horse handling and rescue equipment. Police should be called if there is significant injury to people or horses, damage to vehicles or property, or a need for road closure. A vet will be able to sedate the horse and give initial treatment. The appropriate service should be called as soon as possible.  Give the operator accurate location information.

Another aspect of responding to emergencies is to learn from the situation and ensure steps are taken to prevent future re-occurrence.