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PEER volunteers learn more about equine rescue

TRYON — What happens if a horse falls into a ravine, gets stuck in a swimming pool or even falls down in a trailer?

Thanks to PEER (Polk Equine Emergency Rescue), there are trained volunteers in Polk and surrounding counties who can help.

PEER held their spring volunteer training this past weekend. Approximately 30 volunteers from around the Foothills area attended the workshop at Foothills Equestrian Nature Center to learn how to handle horses and large animals in difficult, even dangerous situations.

Massachusetts SPCA Equine Rescue and Training Coordinator Roger Lauze conducted the training workshop. Lauze is the inventor of the Rescue Glide, which he described as a backboard for horses.

“[Rescue Glide] revolutionized how we move downed horses,” Lauze said. “We do these workshops to offer the benefits of the MSPCA’s experiences to people in other areas, so they can save more horses.”

The MSPCA Equine Ambulance Program was founded in 1868, and is recognized as the national authority on equine emergency response and rescue. They were approved by Fédération Equestre Internationale veterinarians at the 1996 Olympic games, have played a key role in safety operations at major competitions worldwide and were the official Equine Safety & Ambulance Service provider for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. 

Lauze, who has been involved in equine emergency rescue operations for 24 years, said he has seen some strange and frightening accidents involving horses, including having to use a helicopter to rescue a horse off a cliff side. More common rescues include pulling an injured horse out of a stall, a ditch or a swimming pool.

“Most accidents happen when the horse panics, or when the person either can’t control the horse or doesn’t know how to handle the situation,” he said.

This past weekend, the PEER volunteers learned how to extract a fallen horse from a horse trailer and from a stall, rescue a horse from a creek or if it fell in a deep hole. Lauze also gave instruction in handling and restraining a downed horse and how to use hobbles to restrain a horse if necessary.

PEER is a nonprofit organization completely funded by donations and staffed by volunteers. PEER team leader Anita Williamson said they are communicating with local veterinarians and officials with the World Equestrian Games and the Tryon International Equestrian Center to determine what role PEER will play in ensuring the safety of the horses at WEG.

Those in need of emergency equine rescue services should call 911 and ask for Polk County. To learn more about PEER, to donate or to volunteer, visit peernc.org or call 828-817-5723.