Redwings Horse Sanctuary has partnered with Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NRFS) to launch specialist horse handling training for firefighters.
The new training day has been devised to equip crews with knowledge of equine behaviour – vital when called upon to help in emergencies involving loose horses or freeing horses from tricky situations.
Launched in July 2018, the training takes place at Redwings’ dedicated Behaviour Centre, south of Norwich, where a specialist team works to help unhandled rescued horses, or those from traumatic backgrounds, to learn to trust humans.
The day begins with firefighters practising approaching, head-collaring and leading horses, with help from some of Redwings’ own resident four-legged volunteers!
They also have the chance to meet some of the Sanctuary’s semi-feral rescued horses and gain top tips on how to safely approach and herd more nervous equines without causing unnecessary stress to the animals.
Later in the day, space is provided at the Behaviour Centre for NFRS’s trainers to lead their own refresher sessions involving their life-sized model horse.
With help from Redwings’ team, a number of potential rescue scenarios are created, including the model being lowered and “stuck” in a ditch, for the team to tackle.
Sarah Hallsworth, Redwings’ Equine Behaviour Manager, said: “We’re always keen to share our knowledge and experience whenever we can.
“Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service plays a vital role in freeing horses from difficult and dangerous situations, like deep mud and ditches, so we’re particularly pleased to partner with them on this training and provide the space they need to conduct their practice rescues.
“We hope the knowledge they take from the training gives them more confidence in handling the horses they come across and helps them stay safe when dealing with these large animals.”
NFRS Trainer Andrew Littler, said: “The training is superb for us. We have the chance to meet and interact with lots of different horses – from the handled to the very nervous.
“But aside from the practical elements, the greatest thing about the day is the experience that the Redwings team brings. The expert knowledge they share, like how to read a horse’s body language and their needs, is so useful. Even just having them observe our practice rescues and giving us pointers on how we could handle the horse better is brilliant.”
Redwings and NFRS have supported each other previously with the charity loaning a horse trailer to transport their model horse to training sessions and demonstrations at public events.
For the last two years, NFRS has also provided demonstrations at Redwings’ annual open day at its Norfolk headquarters.
For more information about Redwings and its behaviour team, visit www.redwings.org.uk