Whether you are a horse owner and livery client, member of staff or the yard owner, there is always the possibility that you could be first on the scene of an emergency. Whether it is human or equine life at risk, or another unforeseen event such as horses loose on the road or a fire, it is important to ensure there are procedures and the facilities in place for any sort of emergency to be dealt with quickly and efficiently… especially if lives are at risk.
Whilst not exhaustive, these points below will give some basic- and potentially life-saving- information to make sure yourself and those on the yard are prepared for any eventuality.
MAKE A PLAN…
This should be the most important thing to take on board. Do not think it will never happen. Emergencies usually arise out of the most unforeseen of situations and can take hold quickly. With potentially staff, horse owners, visiting professionals or guests of clients at the yard at any time it is important to make sure everyone stays as safe and protected as possible. Pre-planning of even the most basic emergency procedures can save lives and enable you to deal with emergencies quickly and efficiently. Prevntion is also a key. Try to ensure horses and people at the yard are not put at unnecessary risk, and that basic health and safety recommendations are adhered to reduce the likelihood of accidents or emergencies.
- Smoking Policies
- Fire and Evacuation Procedure
- Fire Alarms or Warning Systems
- Stocked, Checked and Replenished First Aid Kits
- Annual Fire and Safety Inspection
- Trained First Aider on Site
- Keeping the Yard Tidy and Free from Hazards at all Times
- Location of Local Community Defibrillator
- Access to Tool Kit (with wire cutters, basic tools)
If your yard has no owner or manager on site throughout the day or overnight, it is worth visiting close neighbours and asking them to be vigilant, Ensure they have your contact details. You can also consider having your phone number on a board on yard signage visible from the road in the event that a third party who does not know the yard or its managers or staff can contact you in the event of an emergency.
It is important to have a means of communication whilst on the yard. If you need to call the emergency services, or quickly contact the owner of the yard or a horse owner it’s no good if you don’t have anything to make a call with or the number to hand. Ideally, a yard with a landline is great, or if not the use of a mobile phone. It’s ideal if people on the yard can have access to a socket for charging phones, or if not, don’t forget you can charge a phone in most cars these days.
In the event of an emergency, it is likely you’ll need the ability to stay in constant communication. If there is no landline, and mobile signal is bad, it may also be a possibility to visit a neighbouring property and use their phone in a genuine emergency but its ideal to be on site whilst calling the emergency services in case they need any vital information about the situation or there are casualties on site. Don’t forget also, if you are a livery client make sure you have provided a primary and secondary contact number- be this your home and mobile numbers, a partner or relatives number or a friend who lives locally and can attend on your behalf at short notice in the event you are unobtainable.
Make sure you have an area at the yard where the following can be found, and make sure everyone on the yard knows where it is located. As a yard owner you should be able to quickly locate the details of all horses and their owners as this information should be taken down upon their arrival at the yard and stored securely for exactly this sort of occasion:
- Yard Owner (or staff members) Contact Number and Secondary Contact Number
- Contact Number of each Horse Owner (and possibly next of kin as well)
- Contact Numbers of Vet and Farrier
- Details of Emergency Services
- First Aid Kit
A protocol should also be in place- i.e in the event of any equine emergency (such as injuries to horses on the yard, loose horses etc) the horse owner or yard manager should be called as a priority before a vet, farrier etc so they can advise on action to be taken- especially if they are responsible for the horses day to day care. However, this decision should be made sensibly and considerately if you feel an animal is immediately in danger due to injury or other events you need to sensibly prioritise what is the best course of action at that moment in time.
Get Organised and Stay Calm:
Staying calm and thinking clearly will help a situation no end. Assess a situation as best as possible in the circumstances and prioritise the most important aspect. To save life and reduce the risk of further injuries would be the priority, but not so as to put yourself or others in danger. If a situation really is beyond your control you are best to wait for the emergency services to arrive than to create additional casualties or worsening a situation.
Ensure you stay calm. It is likely any injured or humans or equine casualties will already be spooked or frightened and being stressed and hectic, loud and erratic will only heighten the situation and risk further incident. Make sure casualties are, where possible, moved away from an incident and someone is tasked with keeping any injured persons or animals monitored and reassured.
It is ideal if there are more than one of you on the scene as one of you can contact the necessary people whilst the other starts to take action such as offering first aid or moving horses so summon help if possible. Whilst you are waiting for the emergency services or the vet to arrive, do what you can to make their life easier when they are on the scene- open gates or move cars for access, if possible get casualties into clean well lit areas, move flammable items and vehicles away from the proximity of fires and so on.
Who to Call:
Prioritise a line of communication by the severity of the emergency. Fire, police, an ambulance could all be necessary but think outside of the box as well. Do you need to contact neighbouring properties, either for additional help or to warn them of danger also. Think further down the line of who would need to be contacted. If you contact a vet or a horse owner as priority, think about contacting the yard owner or manager as well so they are aware of any situation. Social Media can also be great to help spread the word- where sensible and so as to not cause panic- in the event of loose horses, or the need for lots of hands posting to yard FB or WhatsApp groups can be hugely beneficial in informing others and getting help quickly whilst being abe to rapidly keep people updated.
In an emergency, it can be hard to know who to call if a horse is injured. With busy yards, it is likely that there will be several different veterinary practices used between the clients, the same with farriers. It can be difficult to quickly source the right information. In which cases, it can always be agreed between clients and the yard that in the event of a genuine emergency a yard appointed vet or farrier can be contacted initially regardless of the animal to be treated, with treatment later taken over by the clients own vet or farrier as necessary. In the event that the yard calls out vets or farriers on an emergency basis, this should only be done if the owner cannot be contacted prior, or if you feel there is a genuine priority to get them on the scene. It is sensible to have as part of a livery contract the fact that in such circumstances, the horse ower is liable for any associated call out or treatment costs.
Giving the Right Information:
In the event of an emergency, whether you are contacting the yard owner, a vet, the horse owner or the emergency services, it is important to give them the correct facts from the start. Make sure you have fully assessed a situation before making contact, and that you remain calm and are able to communicate clearly where you are, what has happened and what sort of help you need. For this reason, it is important to have the full yard address to hand (directions may be necessary if it is ruraly situated or doen;t not have a specific address), plus be as accurate as possible with details about any horses or people that may have been injured- height, age, size and so on. You will also need to provide them with a contact number either yourself or the yard owner can be reached on so make sure you have this to hand also and keep the line as clear as possle in case they need to contact you for further information.
Having the Right Equipment to Hand:
There can be all manner of incidences happen on a yard… loose horses, fires, injuries to humans or horses.. and its important to consider a procedure for all. Any well-managed yard should have the following in place, and for all staff and clients to know where these can be found. It is ideal to have a yard handbook issued to clients and updated regularly, or to give a guided tour of such things to all new clients in the event of an incident. It is also important to ensure any equipment for use in an emergency is well maintained, regularly checked and replenished to make sure everything is in working order and you’d have everything to hand you’d need.
- Fire Extinguisher and Evacuation Procedure (for horses and humans)
- Human First Aid Kit
- Equine First Aid Kit
- Location of Trip Switch (for electrics)
- Easily Accessible Headcollars and Leadropes
- Fresh Water and Buckets
- Torches or Temporary Lighting
- Known Location of Local Community Defibrillator
Remember as well that any emergency services visiting the yard will not be familiar with where things are, nor may they be used to handing equines so it is important to provide assistance where possible, and help by fetching equipment as necessary whilst remaining calm and attentive to the demands and direction of the people attending.
It is certainly worth considering the safety of humans and horses in your yard, whether you are a client or yard owner. Take a look around the yard and contemplate what action would need to be taken and, if not already, make this a set procedure and ensure it is clearly communicated to clients, staff, and visitors by way of a handbook or signage on the yard.
It takes only a short time to be prepared for an emergency… and could well be the difference between life and death.
There are various documents available on the Equine Guides pages of the site which can assist in the planning and considerations of Health and Safety on your yard. All completely free to access and download.