News & Media

Large animal rescue workshop

By: Duncan Russell

Category: Training & Recruitment

  11.46 PM 5 November, 2012

Location: District 7 News

Views: 3283

(By Glenn Wilson)
The longer rescue personnel are in the game, the closer they will be to one day being unexpectedly presented with a large animal rescue.

Large animal rescue (LAR) is not a field for the faint-hearted. A horse or cow can be a dangerous animal when you are up close, especially if the animal is under stressed, trapped or in pain.

Barry Knight from Lara brigade knows this all too well. He has attended several large animal rescues over the years and is developing a much better understanding of the risks and techniques involved in keeping rescue personnel safe, preventing further harm to the animal, and getting it out in one piece.   

You can watch Astro, a horse, being rescued from Avalon Beach. Barry's unit turned up expecting to rescue a woman stuck in the mud:  

For Barry, the opportunity to be trained by an internationally recognised LAR expert trainer to become more skilled and reduce the risks was an opportunity to be embraced.

On 27 and 28 October, Barry joined over 40 people from several CFA brigades and State Emergency Service (SES) units, as well as a collection of horse owners and carers at Marcus Oldham College in Waurn Ponds, near Geelong, for some serious training - even though it was just an introduction level course.

Dr Rebecca Gimenez, from the US ( who’s been instructing and developing technical and practical expertise in this field for almost two decades, kept the class entertained, enthralled, challenged, and often in fits of laughter.

She presented well-documented experiences rescuing cows, horses, sheep, lamas, deer, moose, snakes, and the occasional alligator.

By using photographs and videos gathered from all over the world, Rebecca provided interesting and challenging real-life LAR scenarios for participants to practise their teamwork and problem solving skills.

Every rescue of a large animal presents challenges and serious safety risks, and it’s amazing what can be done with some good knowledge and basic equipment. It’s also amazing at how quickly things can go seriously wrong for the animals and the rescuers.

The presence of a CFA and an SES rescue vehicle and crews trained in the operation of these specialised units was of great interest. Both these well-equipped vehicles were showcased and their applicability for LAR was assessed by those present.

It was also shown that by simply adapting common items of equipment we all have access to, we can safely rescue large animals in a variety of situations. Imagination, understanding of animal behaviour, basic animal handling skills and a well-managed incident were some key ingredients that Rebecca highlighted as necessary for safe and successful large animal rescue.

Some of Rebecca’s key messages were:

  • keep the sirens off and approach the animal quietly and calmly
  • the owner often has an emotional attachment and needs to be a part of the rescue team but not in the line of fire
  • get a vet on site and give them a helmet to wear 
  • stay well back during the rescue and after the animal has been rescued becasue people can get seriously injured by violent and unpredictable thrashing of the animal. 
  • have secondary containment ready. 

And it's amazing what a 65mm flat hose, threaded on to an animal correctly, can achieve as a rescue device.

All participants received a copy of Equine Emergency Rescue - a Guide to Large Animal Rescue by Australian author MaryAnne Leighton. The book is available and is a must have for any rescue personnel!

Information about upcoming LAR training courses, workshops, presentations and the International Large Animal Rescue Conference in Adelaide in November 2013 can also be found on this website.

Thanks to Marg Anderson from The Gordon Institute of TAFE for organising this weekend.


1. Leading Firefighter Robert Jones (right) and Leading Firefighter Clayton Derrick (left) from Geelong City Fire Station discuss the equipment available on the CFA Rescue Unit with Dr Rebecca Gimenez and the course attendees. Photo by Glenn Wilson

2. 32-year-old pony Kiesha, who has been trained to lie down by owner Fred Gillett, is prepared for a recumbent move.  Photo by Marg Anderson

3. Practising a backwards drag using 65mm flat hose to spread the load and prevent injury. Photo by Marg Anderson

Last Updated: 10 November 2012