Least Resistance Training Concepts

Volunteers Training for Emergencies

  Large Animal Evac and Technical Rescue Activities
September 1, 2012

This document is a continuation from Part One in which the context of these activities is explained.

  Rescuing a Draft Horse
from Lake Lahontan

Part Two

Getting Reno out of the lake

This report is a continuation of Part One..

The beach-goer who offered use of his winch exhibited good winch skills. A snatch block was attached to a tug strap and the winch cable was run out to the snatch block and back to the winch pickup. This two-to-one advantage reduced the load on the winch and also improved the control of the winching operation as it reduced the winching speed by one-half. The winch volunteer also placed a mat over the winch cable to reduce cable whip in the event the cable, a hook or a strap failed.

The winch setup.
Sternal position, forward assist.
During the next forward assist Reno attempted to get up. By this time everyone including beach-goer helpers were aware of the various danger zones so the true "fish flop" that ensued put nobody at risk. Given that the footing in the lake was tricky and it wasn't easy to move quickly, thus overall awareness was essential to operational safety.
Reno attempting to rise.
Everyone remains clear as the horse falls over.
Maintaining head position to keep him from drowning until everyone regrouped.
Ultimately the horse had to be dragged on shore. He was exhausted and shivering. He was blanketed and provided water and grass hay cubes softened in water. As it was getting dark, a campfire was built nearby to provide additional warmth.

Eventually Reno regained enough strength to stand, after which he displayed a desire to walk about, which he was allowed to do on-lead in a safe area of the beach. Reno was later transported to a location where he could be examined by a veterinarian and treated if necessary.

A priority is protecting Reno's "down side" eye.
Reno, back on his feet.
The time that lapsed between Reno becoming stuck and once again regaining his feet onshore was close to eight hours.

Post scripts.

Following veterinary treatment, as of Monday morning Reno was alert, walking, eating and drinking normally along with related bodily functions. While any adverse effects from long term entrapment and immersion in water could take a few days to be fully realized, Reno's apparent rapid return to "normal" behavior was an extremely encouraging sign.

Follow-up with Reno's owners some weeks later revealed that the horse exhibited no lasting ill effects from the incident.

Lessons Learned

  • While the more modern equipment available from the Division of Emergency Management is clearly more versatile and is easier to work with, the older equipment can still get the job done. However after training with the newer equipment, there are clear differences with ease of use and functionality.

    (2014 edit: A grant from the Davis-McCullough Foundation provided funds so that LRTC now has its own Becker Sling and other more modern technical rescue equipment.)

  • This incident was successful based on a number of factors including the support of State Parks personnel who, among other things, helped distinguish between useful helpers who contributed to the successful outcome and kept some others, including beach-goers who had consumed substantial quantities of alcohol, out of the work areas. (Some were asked to remove glass and debris from the beach, which they did, and it kept them busy.)

  • Two LRTC team members worked in the water. A third assisted with on-shore logistics and also provided some documentation and a fourth handled documentation and provided some on-shore logistic help.

  • The forward member who intended to serve as Rescue Group Supervisor ended up pretty much serving as hands-on Incident Commander. The Safety Officer also had to be involved hands-on during various elements of the incident.

  • The delayed response of technical rescuers can be attributed to the weekend and a lack of contact information available to various agencies. State Parks personnel struggled to locate a number through which to request a large animal technical emergency rescue response. (That issue has since been resolved.)

  • Some equipment that we respond with is heavy. We would have saved time if we had taken the time to stop and more carefully planned a response route across the deeper sand.

  • Some of the equipment that works great on dry land can be difficult to handle in water, including hooks, shackles and other small items that can get lost in the water, costing time while they are searched for and recovered. We have addressed those issues.

  • Equestrians should not take their horses into water in areas in which they are not completely familiar. Many sandy bottom lakes and semi-dry stream beds can have areas of unstable sand that narrow footed heavy animals can become immediately stranded in.

  • We had one significant advantage that the horse owner was a former veterinary technician and a horseshoer. Being experienced and level headed, he and his wife both contributed significantly to resolving an incident where we would normally want to exclude horse owners.
Particularly given that in this incident only two of the "in water" rescuers had any large animal technical emergency rescue experience and there was a great reliance on spontaneous volunteers, the operation went relatively well and was successful.
Now the real fun begins. Cleaning equipment and returning it to service.

Continue to Tahoe Vista Quarter Horse Rescue

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