Randy the rubber horse rescued from danger at Royal Norfolk Show

Norfolk Fire and Rescue demonstrate rescuing an injured horse. Picture: Antony Kelly

Norfolk Fire and Rescue demonstrate rescuing an injured horse. Picture: Antony Kelly - Credit: Archant

The specialist techniques involved in rescuing large animals – and the reasons why the untrained public shouldn't wade in to help – were demonstrated by a team of experts.

The equine casualty was Randy the rubber horse, a life-size model who was hauled out of trouble by a five-man team from Norfolk's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team.

The unit, based at Dereham Fire Station, acts as one of four large animal rescue teams across the county, with the others stationed at King's Lynn, Thetford and Carrow.

Show-goers were given an insight into how the team uses strops, lifting bars and surgical harnesses to lift animals out of dangerous situations.

They were also shown an 'emergency hobble', a last resort used only if a rider is trapped under a fallen animal and needed to be rescued urgently, before a vet could be called to sedate the animal.

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The technique involves using riot shields to prevent the horse from kicking while attaching hobbles to the front legs, then hauling the animal upright from behind so it sits up on its haunches, allowing the human casualty to be safely recovered.

Duncan Barrow, Red Watch manager for USAR, said he wanted to raise awareness that the specialist service was available free of charge, and to encourage farmers and landowners to call 999 if their animals were stuck.

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He said if untrained members of the public try to recover a stricken animal themselves, they may put themselves in danger.

'We have always done animal rescues in this county and we have always done it very well, but until recently we have never really had the training from the animal's point of view,' he said.

'The team now understands the physiology of an animal and about sedation and the need to be quiet and avoid winding it up. We can strop it and lift it in such a way that we give the animal the best possible chance.

'But our primary concern is always human life. We work on the basis that we would rather come out and rescue an animal, because if someone without the training does it they can get into trouble. If you look back through the records there are quite a few people who have died trying to rescue large animals or dogs.'

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