Horse ambulances have been around since the early 1900’s. Before that people had to rely on a team of volunteers using wheeled stretchers to get casualties to local hospitals. Since the Industrial Revolution we have progressed to much faster methods of transporting casualties to hospital. However, we are now once again turning to the power of four legs to rescue the sick and injured within our national parks.
Air and Road Support
Today, in the 21st century, we associate paramedics, ambulances and first responders with using the following methods of transport to reach casualties:
- Converted vans on the UK’s network of roads;
- Motorbikes - agile and nimble through city traffic;
- Air - dedicated charities save the lives of 1000’s each year; and
- Bicycles - first responders can quickly navigate from their homes.
These methods suit the modern / urban environment that we live in and can easily follow the network of roads around the country. The problems start to occur in inaccessible, rural spots where even air support could be some way off.
Advantages of Horses
There are several advantages to using a horse during an emergency in a remote landscape:
- Horses are not restricted to using the roads;
- Horses can move faster than people on foot;
- Horses are more cost effective than air ambulances; and
- Certain casualties can be carried to safety on the horse.
What Would They Carry?
Current piloted schemes have only applied to community first responders who work in rural areas. They would typically carry the following equipment when going to the aid of a sick / injured person in rural Britain:
- Automated External Defibrillator (AED);
- Oxygen, face masks & suction kit;
- Bandages and tourniquets;
- Mobile or satellite phone;
- Pulse Oximeter.
One heroic story is that of Mr Bennett who is a community first responder* for the West Midlands Ambulance Service. Mr Bennett lives within the 3,000 acre Cannock Chase Country Park. Getting from A to B is never easy within the park and it wasn't long before he realised that he could use his horse 'Chase' to get to stranded casualties.
Remarkably his response times were far quicker than the air ambulance support and he was operating at a fraction of the cost. Knowing the park inside out made his response time even quicker, which is very important when the first few minutes after an accident can be critical. People like Mr Bennett and his horse ‘Chase’ are leading the way in lowering response times.
* Correct as of May 2010