Hampshire Firefighter Rescue World’s Rarest Heavy Horse Breed

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Rescues Suffolk PunchHampshire firefighters recently responded to an unusual animal rescue, which involved a Suffolk Punch that had fallen into a small stream. At 19:49 Fire Control mobilised crews from Botley and Eastleigh, along with a Multi Role Vehicle and Hampshire Fire and Rescue's specialist Animal Rescue Team, to the incident on a farm in Curdridge just outside Southampton.

On arrival the firefighters swung into action to assist the chesnut coloured Suffolk, the oldest and World's rarest breed of heavy horse, that had fallen into a deep ditch. At 18.2 hands tall and weighing approximately 1.3 tonnes, the Suffolk Punch named Senator had become trapped by his own weight whilst laid on his side in the ditch.

It was no simple matter trying to rescue the horse from the muddy ditch, without injuring the rescuers or the horse. Once the firefighters had made the scene safe, the trained Animal Rescue Team applied strops around the horse using the cold water flowing through the ditch to enable access underneath the horse's body. Specialist lifting techniques were employed to bring the horse onto the bank and away from the ditch, using the farmer's tractor with a fore-end loader.

The Animal Rescue Team worked closely with Animed Veterinary Group to assist Senator into the upright position, before he was stabilised by bales of hay, and thoroughly warmed up after his experience. Animed's on call equine vet administered painkillers due to the length of time that Senator was laid on his side in the cold water.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service's Rural Safety Officer Anton Phillips, who supervised the rescue, stressed that the swift and expert recovery of Senator from the stream had prevented very serious consequences, which may have resulted in both limb and muscle damage, as well as the failure of the horse's internal organs due to the sheer weight that was bearing down upon them whilst he was trapped in the ditch.

He said: "The Suffolk Punch has a total worldwide population of only around 370 registered pure-breds. It was therefore paramount that we affected a swift rescue of Senator using techniques that were safe for the horse and the crews in attendance."

Watch Manager Phillips' role as Rural Safety Officer is to visit farms and equine establishments to offer free advice and guidance. He explained: "By visiting farms personally I'm able to help owners be better prepared for any emergency that may occur. It also gives me the opportunity to equip firefighters with essential information about a farm before they arrive in order to tackle incidents more effectively."

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service is already recognised as one of the country's leading Fire and Rescue Services for animal rescues. It was therefore no surprise that their expertise and operational procedures were used to draw-up a national protocol aimed at providing essential guidance to other fire services and rescue organisations. Because large animals in distress are an imminent threat to life or health members of the public and emergency responders are put at extreme risk if these incidents are not handled appropriately. The Protocol also enables correct training for all emergency responders and ensure that an animal is rescued in the best possible way whilst maintaining the safety of firefighters, the public and with consideration for the welfare and viability of the animal.

Unfortunately the story does not have a happy ending. Although the rescue was a success, with Senator seemingly making a full recovery, he suffered a further two falls within 24 hours of the incident was humanely put down two days later following his third fall.

If you would like to know more about this work, please contact the Rural Safety Team at Lyndhurst Fire Station on 023 8028 4250, email rural.safety@hantsfire.gov.uk, or visist www.hantsfire.gov.uk

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Rescues Suffolk Punch  Hampshire Fire and Rescue Rescues Suffolk Punch

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