Firemen from across Britain are enrolling on animal handling and awareness courses at Sparsholt College, Hampshire.
“Most firemen have little experience of horses, so it’s very beneficial,” said Nigel Fox, deputy manager of agriculture at Sparsholt College.
Since H&H’s news feature (1 February, 2007), Sparsholt College and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, who run the courses, have been inundated with enquiries from firemen around the UK. Hampshire now has three rural safety teams, each led by an animal rescue officer.
“Animal rescue is a dangerous job we need to be geared up for,” said Jim Green, one of Hampshire’s three animal rescue officers.
The success of Hampshire’s rural safety teams has prompted insurance giant PetPlan to invest £10,500 from its charitable trust in the unit, to buy better equipment and a new animal rescue vehicle.
In the past three months his rural safety team has rescued 11 horses, including a New Forest pony trapped upside down in a water-filled ditch (view pictures of this rescue), a horse impaled on railings in central Portsmouth and a 16.2hh hunter from a swimming pool. None sustained lasting damage.
“It is encouraging to see these tangible results,” said Mr Green.
Other fire and rescue services are following Hampshire’s lead — a team from South Wales recently undertook the course at Sparsholt.
This news report was first published in Horse & Hound (29 March, ’07)