Equine dummy helps search and rescuers train

Search and Rescue team members from Lyon County, Carson City and from as far away as Yuba County, Calif., converged on Stagecoach on Sunday to join local horse rescue volunteers in rescuing Nigel.

Nigel is the nickname the locals have given to the state's latest piece of technical rescue training hardware - a full-sized artificial horse. Nigel, built in the United Kingdom, is proportionally correct and has joints that move like a real horse. However, Nigel seems to be quite accident-prone, as he has had to be rescued regularly.

On Saturday, Nigel was trapped in an overturned horse trailer in Douglas County. On Sunday, he managed to find himself stuck in a bog.

Sunday's six-hour program of classroom preparation and hands-on exercises was hosted by the Lyon County-based horse group Least Resistance Training Concepts, known by locals as LRTC. The lead instructor was Michael Connell, who works with the Division of Emergency Management and who managed to procure Nigel, along with a cache of state-of-the-art large-animal rescue equipment.

Nigel and most of the specialized rescue equipment was provided through a grant via the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

The volunteer rescuers - several of whom were involved in the recent rescue of Zed, the Clydesdale that tumbled off a cliff into the creek in Kings Canyon - addressed the bogged-horse rescue simulation by using water-powered rescue tools.

The bogged-horse scenario was chosen because extricating a bogged horse requires the greatest number of procedures and equipment. Not only did the horse have to be properly secured for lifting, but the suction created by wet sand required water to be injected next to the horse's feet in order to avoid causing serious injury to the horse or risk pulling the lifting machinery into the boggy soil.

In a demonstration, when a bucket loader tried to lift Nigel's sling without use of the water tools, the loader's rear tires started to come off the ground. Once water was applied through small jetting wands, the loader was able to lift Nigel free with relative ease.

Water to operate the water-powered tools was supplied from LRTC's portable water supply trailer. The trailer was originally designed to provide emergency water to livestock out on the range and to water private animals that had to be relocated due to wildfires and floods. With guidance from Connell and assistance from some local agencies, the trailer was modified to support technical rescue operations as well as include basic defensive firefighting capabilities.

Once Nigel was freed from the mire, he was then "packaged" onto a device known as a Rescue Glide. Once on the Rescue Glide, he could be loaded into a stock trailer that periodically serves as LRTC's large-animal ambulance.

Sunday's fierce electrical storms, replete with driving rain and hail, added another dimension of realism to the exercise. But the lightning started to strike a bit too close for the comfort of many students.

"This just might be a bit too much realism," said Greg Faria of San Leandro, Calif. Faria has a vacation home in Stagecoach and volunteers in both California and Nevada.

The exercise held in Stagecoach was one of several being conducted by Connell, supported by the state's Division of Emergency Management. In addition to hands-on training, the volunteers take online courses offered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The purpose of the equipment and training is to improve the safety of civilians and professional emergency responders when confronted with challenging large-animal emergencies as well as to improve the outcomes for those animals that get into trouble.

LRTC's President, Willis Lamm, is a retiree from the fire service, where he was also involved in large-animal technical rescue.

"We actually encounter large-animal emergencies far more often than you would think," Lamm explained. "Having state-of-the-art equipment and a training program sponsored by the state, so that citizens and responders know how to resolve these emergencies effectively and safely, is a huge benefit to Nevadans. Even for large-animal owners who may never actually rescue a horse or other livestock, simply knowing what not to do and how to call for the right help could literally be a lifesaver."

Meanwhile, Nigel rests in his trailer, parked near the state's Joint Operations Center. He awaits his next adventure.

• Fire service retiree Willis Lamm is president of the Lyon County-based horse group Least Resistance Training Concepts.


If you want to learn more about large-animal rescue training, or if you experience an emergency that requires specialized equipment and personnel, contact Michael Connell of the Division of Emergency Management at 775-771-6772.

For general information about large-animal rescue and educational opportunities, go to www.whmentors.org/evac.


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