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More than six million car accidents occur in the United States every year. While there are no reliable statistics regarding how many of those accidents involve horse trailers, any accident involving horses and vehicles has the potential to get ugly quickly.
“Emergencies take all shapes and forms,” said Mark Cole, managing member of USRider. “It could be life or death, or it could start as something simple and morph, but a lot of horse-related emergencies result from not being prepared and proactive.”
Two Essential Documents
While many people don’t like to think about emergency situations, being prepared for one can be the difference between a good outcome and a horrific one. Not only should you prepare for equine emergencies, but you should also plan for what will happen to your horses if you have a personal emergency while on the road.
Representatives from USRider, a company that provides emergency roadside assistance for equestrians (think AAA for horse trailers) recommend carrying “Limited Power of Attorney” and “To Emergency Responder” forms whenever you are traveling with your horses.
“This is something you need to think about well in advance,” said Cole. “The person you designate [in the Limited Power of Attorney document] should be a trusted friend who knows you and your relationship with your animals. This document allows whomever you designate to make decisions about your animals in the event that you are incapacitated.”
While an attorney drafted the document USRider provides, Cole recommends speaking with your own attorney and making adjustments to suit your personal needs, which could include how much money you are willing to spend on your individual horses, as well as at what point you would consider euthanasia.
The “To Emergency Responder” form is a corresponding document to the Limited Power of Attorney that provides pertinent information for an emergency contact who has the legal authority to make decisions regarding the treatment of your animals, as well as information about your home veterinarian and insurance company.
“You’ve provided for their care if the worst happens,” said Cole of the importance of carrying these documents while traveling. “This is taking preparation to the next level and being a good steward of your animals.”
Have An Emergency Plan
Because emergencies can happen anywhere, USRider has developed a database of large-animal veterinarians that their members can access in an emergency. In addition, the company maintains a database of emergency stabling facilities.
“The majority of facilities we use are not necessarily public boarding facilities,” said Cole. “They are horse owners and other members who have heard about what we do, and sign up as an emergency facility. If someone needs stabling in an emergency, we can contact them and see if they can help, or ask if they know who can.”
Because the equine industry is so close-knit, utilizing the network of horse owners often proves to be an important method of assistance. However, Cole stressed the importance of dialing 911, especially if you are in a dangerous location.
“If you are not in a safe place, and you have an equine or human emergency, it’s best to dial 911,” said Cole. “The 911 system reaches a different level of assistance.”
In your cell phone, consider establishing an ICE contact. ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency” and is a simple aid for emergency responders. Horse owners should have two entries in their contact lists, one for themselves, and one for their horses. These emergency numbers could include your veterinarian at home, or reliable and knowledgeable friends or family who can assist if you cannot.
Know The Signs
When it comes to your horse’s health on the road, keeping track of your horse’s resting TPR (temperature, pulse, respiration) can be an invaluable indicator of your horse’s health and a potential emergency.
“Any decent horseman should be able to obtain a daily resting TPR on their horses,” said Midge Leitch, VMD, a staff veterinarian in radiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s School Of Veterinary Medicine New Bolton Center. “It should be performed every day at the same time, when your horse is rested and relaxed, on every horse you are taking care of. Those pieces of information should go in a record everyday. They are as valuable of an indicator of their standard of health as you can get.”
Just like in people, an average TPR is different for every horse, but in general, average temperature varies from 99-100.5°F, average pulse is 36-44 beats per minute, and average respiration is 8-12 breaths per minute. Leitch noted that, when traveling, most horses will have a slightly elevated heart and respiratory rate, simply due to the stress of the activity.
“Most horses’ temperatures range just below 100,” Dr. Leitch observed. “A temperature over 100.5° in a horse which is on the road is cause for more careful observation. If something abnormal is beginning, you are alert to it.”