Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Rider's Wednesday -- Emergency Planning

Our New Year's Eve -- a quiet evening spent at home with a few friends -- was put on hold when a mildly inebriated gentleman knocked on our door and informed us that "there was a really big horse" running all over the road.

From his description, I knew it wasn't one of my boys.

"It's big! And white! With spots. Kind of like those."

With the last comment, he indicated my Dalmatians, which got me wondering who in the area had a leopard Appaloosa. But then the man reconsidered my dogs... "Only bigger." (A Paint Horse, perhaps?) "And... the other way."

"Could it be a darker horse with big white spots?" I asked him.

He thought it could. Whatever it was, he assured us, it was a horse. And it was BIG.

It turned out that our neighbor's Percheron gelding had gotten loose, along with their pony, so we put our visit on hold and set out to look for them. After some fruitless driving around, we finally found them at the corner of our field, more than ready to go home.

And so all's well -- no one got hit on the road or otherwise irreparably injured. Happy New Year indeed!

Having a horse get loose and cause havoc on the road, however, is one of my greatest fears. I have been known to wake up in the dead of night, certain that I have A.) heard hooves on the asphalt, B.) heard the screech of brakes, and C.) become the new defendant in a liability lawsuit.

As we sat in my living room waiting for 2006 to arrive, we discussed the need for proper emergency measures should something similar ever happen again (God forbid!). Some results of our brainstorming session:

* Have a list of nearby people who know horses, who you can call on to help recapture the lost. The list should include cell phones and home phones.

* Decide how you are going to stay in touch while searching. If by cell phone, make sure everyone has everyone else's number. If by walkie talkie (our choice), be sure to specify a channel. Ideally, do a sound check before disaster strikes.

* Have a "designated caller" who gets on the phone, tells people of the situation, and coordinates calls from a central location. Ideally, the location is the missing horse's home. If that's not possible, it should be in a place where the missing horse can be temporarily stabled if and when he is caught.

* Have the "designated caller" contact the local sheriff or police department and alert them that a large animal is loose. Give a contact number for if the animal is sighted or involved in an accident. (Unfortunately, many officials don't take this seriously. "If we find him, can we ride him home," local emergency personnel joked. Ha, ha. Ever see what happens to a car that hits a 200 pound deer? Imagine what could happen if it hit a 2000 pound horse.)

* Have the emergency contact numbers of several large animal vets. If the situation turns grim, you may not be able to get through to your vet of choice. Sometimes any vet will do.

* Have a portable horse first aid kit packed in a backpack or duffel bag. At the very least it should include the afore-mentioned list of vet numbers, bandages, polo wraps, disposable diapers (especially good for covering large leg wounds), an extra halter and leadrope, a small can of pellets or grain for rattling, a twitch, and a flashlight with reliable batteries.

* Wear reflective clothing if you will be anywhere near a road. Vests with reflective tape on them are invaluable. The small blinking lights used by trick-or-treaters are also great aids to staying visible.

* Have access to several powerful (at least 1 million candle power) spotlights. Have them charged and ready to go. If driving, have a passenger in the car use a spotlight to sweep the roadsides and fields.

* When the horse is finally caught, remember to contact the local law enforcement and let them know that things are under control.

Here's hoping that you never need to put your emergency measures into action. But if you DO, having a plan could save you valuable time. It could literally save your horse's life.

Happy Birthday, Little One!
Today my little girl turns three. Where does the time go? You blink... It's over, and they're babies no more.