Lisa Morrison gives us an inside look at the Massachusetts SPA, a pioneer of equine emergency response and rescue whose horse ambulance program serves a number of major events.
From Lisa Morrison:
Many years ago, while walking the course on cross country day at one of my first “big” events, I passed a large flatbed truck (complete with winch) parked behind some trees mid-course. It seemed like a weird vehicle in a weird place. When its purpose finally dawned on me, it was a sober reminder of how dangerous our sport can be – not just for riders, but our horses as well.
Luckily, we’ve come a long way since then. Today, many major events have horse ambulances on-site for the duration of the competition. Cross country is obviously the most common place for trouble to occur but incidents can happen anytime and anywhere.
The Massachusetts SPCA runs a horse ambulance program that serves a number of major events, primarily in the East. For 15 years, they have brought specialized trucks and trailers to Rolex. They were also at the 2010 World Equestrian Games and regularly attend events from Florida to Canada – including Fair Hill, Jersey Fresh, Stuart, Millbrook, Bromont and the AECs.
The ambulances are designed to handle rough ground and are stocked with specialized equipment. The staff of the Equine Ambulance Program has a depth of horse rescue experience and is well-trained in moving injured and downed horses quickly, safely and humanely. When at an event, they work with the on-site veterinarians and officials to assess where to position the ambulances and what the best routes are to get around and out of the site.
The Nevins Farm, home to the MSPCA Equine Rescue team, was founded in 1917 as a rest home for horses – not a retirement home but a place where horses working in the city of Boston could go for some R&R. Today, the farm is next door to a busy interstate on the edge of Metheun, MA. It is also home to one of MSPCA’s small animal shelters, its farm animal shelter, a pet cemetery and the Tack Box – a boutique where you can get excellent deals on horse gear. More than 900 farm animals – horses, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, geese and ducks – find their way to Nevins Farm each year.
In addition to the Horse Ambulance program for events, the MSPCA provides rescue services throughout New England as well as training across the US for firefighters and other first responders – to train them in rescue techniques as well as give them an understanding of how to deal with horses in an emergency.
Rescue services are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Ambulances with specially trained staff are dispatched in response to calls from veterinarians or public safety officials to help move injured or incapacitated horses. And the horse rescue course – a two-day hands-on seminar, which is open to anyone – is given at Nevins Farm several times a year. Organized groups can have customized courses for up to 40 people delivered at their site.
The MSPCA is a pioneer of equine emergency response and rescue, starting with a horse-drawn horse ambulance in the late 1800s to the development of the Rescue Glide, which is used to move downed horses and can be managed by only two people.
With the safety of horses being paramount in eventing, it is good to know that the MSCPA and their equine rescue services are there to help. These days, I breathe a sigh of relief when I see a horse ambulance on site at events.
The MSPCA Equine Safety & Ambulance Program is funded by the generous financial support of horse owners, equine enthusiasts and other friends. To learn more about the program, visit the MSPCA website or contact Roger Lauzé at [email protected] or (978) 687-7453 x6124. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation.