ELKTON, Md.--A horse ambulance, formally known as an Equine Rescue Ambulance, located in Elkton, is operated by an all-volunteer organization that has answered 25 calls from Nov. 1, 2019, when it was established, through 2022.
This group has provided much needed emergency rescues in a four state area as well as training in how to react in an emergency.
Along with answering those emergency calls, the Equine Rescue Ambulance also has provided coverage at the Foxcatcher Endurance Race, Willowdale Races, Winterthur Races, Radnor, Mt Harmon, Maryland 5* Three-Day Event and Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
There are 20 volunteers, eight of which have technical large animal rescue training.
"Since we're all volunteer, we have to rely on having enough people answer a call to man the ambulance," said Jo Ann Bashore, a retired Fair Hill Park Ranger. "We have not refused a call so far."
As Fair Hill is a state park, it has it's own organization of park rangers who respond to emergencies within the park, and Bashore said that as the only ranger with knowledge about horses she was called in all horse related emergencies, and thus when she retired the horse ambulance was a perfect fit.
The calls for a horse ambulance have ranged from arranging emergency transportation to New Bolton to rescuing a horse stuck in a ravine, a horse hit by a car and horses cast in stalls or down in trailers.
In one case, a horse slipped on a bridge in Fair Fair Hill State Park and fell into a ravine.
"THOSE BRIDGES are wood, and they get covered with moss that gets slick when it's wet," said Bashorse. "When we respond to an emergency, a veterinarian is required to be on scene for treatment. This horse was thoroughly anesthetized. The ravine was about 10 feet deep."
Bashore said they were able to get a volunteer down into the ravine with the horse, who was placed on an equine stretcher, strapped in and then winched up.
"For horses cast in stalls or down in trailers, we use our emergency techniques to get them out," said Bashore.
The horse ambulance is a gooseneck trailer customized for the rescue organization's use.
"There's a winch in front to pull a horse in, and the front tack area was modified to store out equipment," said Bashore. "There's a back ramp and a side ramp."
Bashore said they had never had a horse refuse to load.
"Usually these horses are attended by a veterinarian, so they may have been sedated," said Bashorse. "We've responded to emergencies in the four state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland."
"We also have training sessions for owners and vets on how to get a cast horse up," said Bashore. "On April 18,we had a training session for the Delaware State Police Mounted Unit. There were 28 in that session, including 22 mounted officers, three vets and three veterinarian technicians."
The mounted offices were from from Delaware State, New Castle County, Ocean City, Md., and Philadelphia as well as Delmarva Equine veterinarians and vet techs in Smyrna, Del.
"We have a 900 pound plastic horse with moveable joints that we use in training," said Bashore. "The participants in these training sessions get hands on practice with this plastic horses in different scenarios."
The organization offers training to better educate owners and first responders on a safe, efficient and professional way to assist in an emergency.
"We're a 501(c)3 nonprofit, so donations are greatly appreciated," said Bashore. "We hold paper chases and an obstacle clinic to raise funds. We were started by the Equine Rescue Ambulance in Baltimore County. That's been in service for 20 years."
The Elkton unit was started to provide service in a wider area.
For more information on the horse ambulance, go to equineambulance.org, where there is also information on how to reach the organization in an emergency.