News

Jimboomba, QLD – 22 May 2022

A perfect venue and enthusiastic participants greeted us on Sunday the 22nd of May at Jimboomba for our latest Equine Emergency Rescue Large Animal Rescue workshop.

Sadly, the weather let us down big time. It was shocking; so bad that some disappointed people couldn’t get to us because their driveways and roads were washed out. Others blew tyres when they drove into massive, magically-hidden potholes that suddenly undermined the roads, and still others didn’t dare venture out in case they couldn’t get back home.

The small group that joined us at Jimboomba Community & District Hall gained the benefit of far more hands-on experience with the practical work than normal. In addition to the basic rescue techniques, we asked them to puzzle through the complexities of a confined space that contained a dangerous object that may explode without any warning; ie: the generously donated mannequin, Rufus (Rural Fire Service), from Greenbank Rural Fire Brigade, who was confined to the front veranda thanks to the stinking weather. Everyone was able to try each different technique at least once and onlookers were close enough to the action – but at a safe distance – to observe.

In addition to thanking our friends at Greenbank RFB, our heartfelt thanks go to the wonderful and dedicated Fiona Strachan and her Jimboomba Equine Carriage Club crew for supporting our Large Animal Rescue workshops in this way while suffering delays because of COVID as well as other logistical hassles. Thanks also to Jimboomba Rotary who waived the fee for the hire of the hall, and to Logan City Council for the grant that significantly reduced the cost of the workshop for participants.

Requests for these workshops are coming in at a very acceptable rate and this year you can expect to see more of us in person in South East Queensland, NSW and Victoria, as well as online in WA.

Melton, VIC – 4 April 2022

We were delighted when Harness Racing Victoria invited us to return to Melton this month to deliver a second Equine Emergency Rescue Emtrain Large Animal Rescue workshop for new staff and those who missed out in August last year.

Another 20 people, mostly management, hung on our every word, photo and video, few asked questions this time but we noticed many taking notes intently.

At the end of August’s workshop, HRV immediately implemented changes to workplace practices and bought helmets for all stewards, track vets, track attendants and swab attendants. At the end of this second workshop, HRV asked for ongoing, quarterly refresher training. Success!

Melton, VIC – 2 October 2021

If I measure the success of one of my Large Animal Rescue workshops by the client debriefing participants immediately after the workshop ended, discussing changes to be implemented, and the following day buying helmets for everyone, then I consider this particular workshop to have been a resounding success.

It was almost 20 months in the making but it was worth every minute of the wait. Harness Racing Victoria first contacted me in January last year. We settled on a date in March 2020 but COVID arrived and Victoria went into lockdown. We set another date. South East Queensland went into lockdown. We set a third date and Victoria went back into lockdown. But because Virginia and I are so good at adapting and improvising, we agreed to deliver the PowerPoint presentation sections of the workshop from the Gold Coast in Queensland to Melton in Victoria via Zoom.

Obviously it was impossible for Virginia to do the hands-on via Zoom but, because my main man Hoss the rescue training mannequin currently lives and works with Eric Bast at Macclesfield in Victoria, I was able to call on Eric to load him up and the two of them very kindly stepped in to do the practical.

The workshop was restricted to HRV staff – vets, stewards, track attendants and swab attendants, integrity staff, animal welfare staff and maintenance staff.

Harness Racing Victoria has asked for another workshop in November. Would we do it again via Zoom? Only if there is no other option and we again have total control. But by November we hope lockdown will be over and Virginia and I can again travel.

My thanks to Nicole McCarthy and Brent Fisher of HRV, the one and only Virginia, and in the deep south Hoss and Eric Bast. I must also thank Rod Stebbing of Emtrain Fire and Community Safety for handling the logistics and Paul Stebbing for the photos and videos.

Wacol, QLD – 15 September 2021

It was ten years to the day from the very first Large Animal Rescue training course for RSPCA Queensland to the sixth, held last week.

On the 15th of September 2011 at the old and tired Fairfield Shelter in Brisbane, trailblazer Dr Rebecca Gimenez Husted from Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue in the USA introduced RSPCA QLD to Large Animal Rescue with her intensive two-day course.

I took over LAR training in Queensland the following year, and in 2013 RSPCA invited me to their new shelter at Wacol to deliver the first of five of my Large Animal Rescue workshops for them over the next eight years. Participants at these workshops have included RSPCA Queensland’s Regional Managers, Inspectors, vets and ambos. Some have attended for a refresher, for new staff it has been totally new information.

Six courses in ten years, from the 15th of September 2011 to the 15th of September 2021. Quite an achievement!

My thanks as always to Virginia Leighton-Jackson without whom these workshops wouldn’t happen. Thanks also to RSPCA Queensland for their passion for Large Animal Rescue, Fabian Stangherlin for the use of Rufus the Greenbank Rural Fire Brigade mannequin, my brother Anthony Leighton for transferring Rufus from Greenbank to Wacol and back home, and the wonderful Rebecca Gimenez Husted for getting us started.

Mt White, NSW – 4 June 2021

You missed a treat on Friday. You really did. Not only did you miss an excellent Equine Emergency Rescue Large Animal Rescue workshop, but you also missed the venue and the people. The venue was the absolutely gorgeous Mt White property owned by the internationally recognised liberty horse and movie horse trainer, stunt coordinator, actor, presenter and producer, and master saddler Heath Harris, and his lovely wife, Krissy.

Krissy is a star in her own right. She show jumped for Australia at the World Cup Final in 1997, and again at the World Championships in 1998. Her talents as an organiser and fearless rider who jumps, along with her detailed knowledge of veterinary first aid and horse training, make her versatile on a movie set, from Animal Department Coordinator to vet medic to action double.

Speaking of movie sets, Heath and Krissy’s property is also used as a movie location with the house, stables and other buildings crafted in a heritage fashion, allowing them to be used in period shoots.

The people? Participants included 13 from RSPCA NSW as well as representatives from Fire and Rescue NSW and Local Land Services, Rural Fire Service, Animal Welfare League, WIRES, vets (including one from New Zealand) and horse owners.

I can’t thank Jodie Bird enough for the enormous effort she expended putting this workshop together. She is a legend. Not only did she secure the venue but, for the first time ever, we were able to offer valuable door prizes thanks to her efforts and persistence. The recipients were delighted. Our generous sponsors were Petstock, PacFire, Cattle Clobber, Thoroughbred Sport Horse Association, Hawkesbury River Saddle Co., and Subway Berowra.

Thank you also to Virginia , Krissy and Heath Harris, and to Hawkesbury SES for the use of one of their rescue training mannequins. Heath was particularly taken with the concept of a rescue training mannequin and he reminisced about a rescue he was involved with on the impressively scary Mooney Mooney Bridge (the highest road bridge in Australia as measured from the road bed to the water below). As Heath pulled one horse from an overturned float others ran free in the 110 km/h zone, 75 metres above the water.

P.S. We have been invited to return to the NSW Central Coast for another Equine Emergency Rescue Large Animal Rescue workshop. Watch this space. And Krissy Harris has invited us to hold another workshop at Ashbrookes Farm any time we like. Would any of you be interested in joining us?

Tamworth, NSW – 2 June 2021

Advertising was not needed to fill my two Large Animal Rescue workshops in Tamworth this week. Megan Davies of North West Local Land Services sent out one flyer to one organisation and word of mouth about the success of my workshop here four years ago did the rest.

At this, the second workshop for LLS, participants joined us from the Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre (AELEC), Merriwa Volunteer Rescue Association, (VRA), Fire & Rescue NSW, vets (including one from FEI), North West Local Land Services and TAFE.

This workshop happened to be the 60th I have delivered as part of my Large Animal Rescue Roadshow. It’s quite a milestone which, sadly, due to COVID we couldn’t celebrate in our usual manner with a shared cake so we made do with balloons.

Again my sincere thanks to Megan Davies and Bob McKinnon of NW LLS, Armidale SES for the use of their rescue training mannequin, and the ever-impressive Virginia for everything she does.

My next workshop is tomorrow at Mt White on the NSW Central Coast. Please contact Jodie Bird to secure one of the few remaining places 0472 615 765. I hope to see you there.

Tamworth, NSW – 1 June 2021

This was the first of two Equine Emergency Rescue Large Animal Rescue workshops in Tamworth this week for North West Local Land Services.

Enthusiastic representatives from LLS, NSW Police, Fire Rescue NSW, local vet clinics, horse owners and others were represented and again the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

I love these workshops for NW LLS. Bob McKinnon and Megan Davies made the day painless, the DPI Training Centre is superb and the only sign I saw of the mouse plague was one tiny baby mouse bumbling away from the Armidale SES rescue training mannequin.

However, Tamworth always throws a challenge at Virginia and me. Last time, four years ago, our sense of direction was totally foiled because Google Maps was not overlaid correctly onto the Tamworth map. This sent us on a magical mystery cross country tour to find the Longyard Tavern for a much anticipated (but disappointing) steak. That excitement was followed by a five-hour wait for our flight home due to a massive storm that closed the airport. This time our friend Google Maps sent us on a short cut from home to Tamworth that reduced our travelling time from the expected 6.5 hours to a mere 9 hours and 5 minutes.

My sincere thanks again to Bob McKinnon and Megan Davies of LLS, Armidale SES for the use of their mannequin, and the one and only Virginia Leighton-Jackson, my co-pilot, much-needed IT support and absolutely wonderful person.

Jimboomba, QLD – 16 May 2021

Thank you Fiona Strachan and Jimboomba Equine Carriage Club for inviting Virginia, me and Greenbank Rural Fire Brigade volunteers to give such a successful and enjoyable Large Animal Rescue presentation and demonstration.

If you haven’t been there, the grounds and facilities are superb and JECC club members are amongst the most helpful and friendly you could hope to meet. They responded well to my presentation “Flight or Fight, what does it really mean?”, asking pertinent questions, offering comments and suggestions and giving excellent feedback. They were equally appreciative of the Large Animal Rescue demo by Greenbank Rural Fire Brigade’s animal rescue team with Rufus (Rural Fire Service) the horse mannequin and Patty (think about it) the cow. Thanks again to everyone involved and stand by for the upcoming JECC / Equine Emergency Rescue Large Animal Rescue workshop at Jimboomba on Sunday the 30th of January next year. I can’t wait to go back and I look forward to seeing you there!

Canungra, QLD – 17 April 2021

The photo says it all. This was the first Equine Emergency Rescue large animal rescue workshop for 2021, and the first since COVID stopped training all those months ago. And it was a ripper!

Thank you to the staff and volunteers of Wildcare Australia Inc. who participated in this successful workshop and who made the day so enjoyable for Virginia, Zeb and me. We in the Large Animal Rescue world have a strong connection with the wonderful people who rescue our native wildlife; we speak the same language and share the passion and, not surprisingly, some of the techniques, success stories and frustrations.

We compared notes and equipment, shared banter and laughs and learnt from each other. Can’t ask for more than that.

Greenbank, QLD – 1 October 2019

I was honoured to be invited to the official handover of Greenbank Rural Fire Brigade’s new custom-built, dedicated Large Animal Rescue truck – a first for Australia. The $180,000 vehicle was funded by the local community and already has wet its wheels at eight successful rescues.

Since I conducted one of my LAR workshops for the Greenbank crew back in June 2013, they have carried out 62 horse and cow rescues in and around Brisbane. Some of these rescues have been extremely complex and, sadly with our current drought, the number of rescues is increasing, with three in the last week alone.

Distinguished guests at the handover were the Minister of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, the Acting QFES Commissioner, the Acting QFES Assistant Commissioner and two State Members of Parliament. I spoke with the Minister who expressed his admiration for Greenbank RFS’s achievements and assures me he intends that Large Animal Rescue should become part of QFES operations. Watch this space.

Congratulations to First Officer Fabian Stangherlin and the entire Greenbank RFS team for your outstanding community spirit, passion for rescuing large animals and drive to get things done. You are an inspiration.

Taree, NSW – 24 August 2019

What a turnout! What a workshop! And what fabulous feedback! Thank you everyone who attended this most enjoyable day.

Thanks as always to my ace assistant Virginia, without whom these workshops simply wouldn’t be possible. Thanks also to Lyn Booth for the hours of work that went into ensuring the workshop ran so smoothly, Dianne Denton whose inspiration it was, Manning Landcare for sponsorship that enabled Lyn to keep the price down, and Hunter Local Land Services for their invaluable support.

It was wonderful to catch up with friends who had attended previous workshops as well as supporters from Hunter Valley Brumby Association, Horse Welfare Inc., Muddy Creek Raingear International and Sea Horse Diamond Beach.

Wacol, QLD – 27 August 2018

It was like coming home and I certainly enjoyed catching up with old friends. This was the fifth workshop we’ve conducted over the years for RSPCA Queensland and for several of the long-term Inspectors and Regional Managers, this one was a welcome refresher. I was pleased to hear a couple of Inspectors say they pick up new information on each of the workshops they attend and this latest was no exception.

For the more recent recruits it was a totally new, and in some cases, unexpected experience. As we headed across to the excellent undercover flyball area for the hands-on section, I fell in step with the only person not in uniform. This was his very first day as an RSPCA Inspector; he hadn’t even undergone an induction let alone basic training or been fitted with a uniform. I think it’s fair to say he wasn’t expecting his first day to be quite so confronting, but he survived and enjoyed it.

Increasingly, RSPCA Queensland Inspectors and Ambulance Officers assist in rescuing trapped large animals and these workshops give them the knowledge and confidence to problem solve with other agencies and ensure a vet is on scene.

Wacol, QLD – 26 July 2018

What a terrific turn-up — animal Ambulance Officers, RSPCA vets and the RSPCA Sanctuary Manager and staff made this workshop another one to remember.

Prior to the workshop, several of the ambos had attended cow and horse rescues and expressed frustration at their lack of knowledge of what to do at the time. We were there to change that. Fortunately, they did know to call for support from our good friends at Greenbank Rural Fire Brigade who have the training and equipment, and all rescues had been successful. Now the ambos know what to do, they have the confidence to be an integral part of future rescues.

We had lengthy discussions on how Large Animal Rescue techniques apply to RSPCA-specific applications, and used the practical part of the workshop to problem solve the unique challenges the ambos face in their working day, not just on-scene but also when animals are seized and taken to the shelter. An added bonus is the workshop also gave the vets and shelter staff a much better idea of what the Ambulance Officers face when they attend these types of jobs.

As we often find, the greatest obstacle at any scenario RSPCA attends can be the animal owner, and what they learnt during the workshop has given them the assurance to approach future situations and rescues positively and with authority.

In the hour before the workshop began, Virginia and I listened in as the ambos learnt how to protect themselves while lifting heavy animals. I now know how to shift, lift and carry a roo, something I never thought I’d need to know. So, how do you carry a roo? Place its head over your shoulder and cradle the body close to your chest while keeping your back straight. I could possibly manage a smallish wallaby, but a big boomer would go straight on a rescue glide!

We were too busy answering questions to take many photos, but it was a hot day — 28°C as opposed to 3°C at the workshop twelve days previously. Crazy weather.

Toogoolawah, QLD – 14 July 2018

The coldest day of the year saw Virginia driving us through mist-shrouded valleys and past frosty paddocks to yet another excellent country showground for the latest Large Animal Rescue workshop, the 11th for ATHRA Queensland.

It was still only 3°C at 8:00 a.m. when we arrived in the Brisbane Valley but the day eventually warmed up enough for the intimate group of trail riders to unrug and catch enough rays to get sunburnt during the practical exercises before lunch. Hoss demonstrated the placid nature of the Resquip Rescue mannequins and didn’t startle as skydivers leapt one after another from planes and snapped open their parachutes above us.

It is dry in Queensland and getting dryer as the worst drought in more than 100 years continues to ravage the countryside, decimate stock levels and shatter lives and livelihoods. From a distance, the Toogoolawah Showground’s main arena looks green but that’s an illusion, up close the blades of grass are inches apart and wilting fast. And the dust! It snuck in everywhere and I constantly felt as though I needed to hose out my eyeballs.

Participants – a third of whom were SES volunteers – couldn’t wait to get their hands on the equipment and learn to use it and with a small group there was plenty of time for everyone to practise everything. Throughout the day, all asked probing questions and gave good feedback and the only thing I wasn’t too keen on was the young lady who shall remain nameless who tried to use my insulin pen to sign in…

Thank you again to Claire Bourke for organising the workshop; and to Queensland Government for making available such generous grant funds enabling ATHRA Queensland to continue to offer education and training to its members.

My next Large Animal Rescue workshop is this Thursday for RSPCA Queensland animal ambulance staff followed by another full day at the annual RSPCA Queensland Conference in August. Do let me know if you’d like a workshop for your group and we’ll work together to make it happen.

Park Ridge, QLD – 2 June 2018

Ten Large Animal Rescue workshops in five years for one group in one State is a record of which to be proud and I thank and congratulate ATHRA on this significant achievement.

Way back when we started, ATHRA (Australian Trail Horse Riders Association) immediately recognised how important it is that its members should know about Large Animal Rescue and they embraced these workshops with a passion. Claire Bourke ensures we hold the workshops in regional and remote areas of Queensland so all members can benefit from them and she has secured grant money each time so members don’t have to dig deep to attend.

Thanks to ATHRA, I have seen parts of Queensland I would never have thought of visiting. I’ve been from the top of the State to the bottom, way out west and some fascinating places in between. I meet interesting and interested people and discover excellent riding clubs with great facilities and members who have a passion for their sport and pride in their club.

We held the latest ATHRA workshop at Chambers Flat Equestrian Park in south Brisbane and what a brilliant set up they have. I think small but perfect sums it up, we had everything we needed and only had to move the tractor out so I could set up my projector and screen. The early winter weather was stunning and, best of all, it was only an hour from home. That doesn’t happen very often!

But wait, there’s more! The next ATHRA / Queensland Horse Council Large Animal Rescue workshop will be held in only three weeks, at Toogoolawah showgrounds on Saturday the 14th of July, starting at the usual witching hour of 9:00 a.m. See you there?

If you are interested in trail riding in this beautiful country, join ATHRA for all the benefits and friendships they offer http://www.athra.com.au

Nanango, QLD – 10 March 2018

Driving through the South Burnett after good rain is spectacular; everywhere is green and lush with livestock and wildlife thriving. Especially the massive old man roo on the side of the road who looked at us disdainfully, as only those big reds can, as if to say, “Huh, tourists!”

V and I weren’t tourists, we were on a mission and have so many people to thank for the success of last Saturday’s workshop. Firstly, Michael Shaw who secured a grant on behalf of South Burnett endurance riders that not only paid for 22 people to attend but also provided enough funds to purchase a basic cache of Large Animal Rescue equipment for the South Burnett region.

Colleen Shaw and Ruth Dixon from South Burnett Endurance Riders Association Inc. did the hard yards to make the workshop happen, South Burnett Western Performance Club provided the venue and cooked burgers and chips for lunch, and Jon Fearnley will hold the rescue equipment at Nanango Veterinary Clinic for when SES needs it for rescues and training.

Workshop participants included volunteers from Nanango and Blackbutt SES units, two vets, one vet nurse, and the President and members of South Burnett Western Performance Club as well as horse owners and western and endurance riders. Their feedback was overwhelmingly positive and I thank them for their enthusiasm and energy.

Last but very much not least, I cannot thank the wonderful Virginia enough for her help and support last weekend, without her I wouldn’t have made it to Nanango as I’d been in hospital only days before. Virginia drove me the 500-kilometre round trip, worked like a Trojan all weekend and made sure I didn’t overdo it. She’s definitely a contender for world’s best daughter.

We’ll be back in the South Burnett on the 24th of June – either Moore or Kilcoy – for the next ATHRA Large Animal Rescue workshop. Watch this space for confirmation of the venue. See you there!

Launceston, TAS – 10 December 2017

Maitland, NSW – 11 November 2017

It was one of those days. We were late leaving for the airport but no worries, the flight was delayed an hour anyway. From Newcastle airport, Google Maps took us on an extended tour of back roads to Maitland where we discovered we were staying at the Bates Motel. It was filthy, the bathroom stank of sewage, one window was broken and most of the insect screens were torn. Checked out. Good news – received a full refund.

You don’t want to know about dinner. Checked into Bates Mk II and slept through a Police raid in the middle of the night. Next morning, we took a wrong turn on the way to Maitland Showgrounds and headed for Newcastle instead.

We eventually ended up where we were supposed to be, the sun came out and our day improved dramatically. Kristy Davies of Equitage Horse Float Training and Safety chose an excellent venue and attracted an inspiring group of workshop participants. They included vets, vet nurses, brumby rescue, a trauma surgeon, RSPCA Inspectors, Local Land Services, podcaster, outdoor and hi viz riding wear supplier and a select group of other horse owners. One participant wanted to know which equipment they should use for their own particular circumstances and another how they could adapt their own equipment.

Thank you again to Hawkesbury SES for allowing us to borrow LARry, the rescue training mannequin. As always, having a mannequin at these workshops makes the practical exercises much more realistic and we appreciate Hawkesbury SES’s willingness to share resources. I’ve put LARry on notice that this workshop was so successful that we’ll need his services for another workshop in 2018. If you’re interested in attending, please let Kristy Davies know.

Equidays, New Zealand – October 2017

It took four years of planning to feature Large Animal Rescue at New Zealand’s premier horse expo, Equidays NZ, but it was worth every second of the wait.

It was first mooted in 2013, nearly happened in 2015 then the organisers decided it would be a highlight of Equidays in 2017 and I’m so pleased I was able to control my impatience.

Over the three days of this mighty expo I delivered Large Animal Rescue presentations that covered what can go wrong and how quickly it happens; what to do and not do if a horse becomes trapped; the horrors of mud and unstable ground rescues, and how to handle incidents involving horse floats.  

With the support of Massey University’s Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT), their mannequin and equipment, plus volunteers from the audience, we knocked spectators’ socks off with rescue scenarios in the demo pen, cutting arena and scary derby course.

Our enthusiastic audience represented all age groups and equine disciplines, and included Equidays staff and volunteers and even the on-duty paramedics. A delightful little boy bounced in his seat, gave me huge smiles and thumbs up when I showed positive mud rescue photos and videos. His frowns showed clearly how disappointed he was with any shots of rescuers doing incorrect or dangerous things. There’s nothing like getting them young and, when he grows up, I can see this captivating kid with a future as an actor or comedian, or possibly a Large Animal Rescue Specialist.

A number of horse owners who are also emergency responders introduced themselves and we were able to direct them to the right person for FENZ (Fire Emergency New Zealand) Large Animal Rescue training. Other spectators asked how they can work with VERT to establish a Large Animal Rescue response in their own parts of New Zealand. How good is that!

Feedback included:

  • “I am very keen to be part of this program in any way you see fit and offer my services whenever you need me. I truly believe how important this program is and the awareness that needs to be made.”
  • “I have waited years to meet you and listen to your presentations.”
  • “I was absolutely blown away with your passion and dedication to this important message.”
  • From one of the on-duty paramedics, “That was a brilliant demonstration. What you are doing is so very, very important.”

Thank you to Lynley Schollum, Equidays Event Executive who worked hard with me for four years to make this happen in 2017.

My thanks also to:

  • Hayley Squance, founder and head of Massey University Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT) who pulled together a small but well trained team of volunteers for the demos
  • Chris Riley, Professor of Equine Clinical Studies at Massey University and VERT volunteer who was our attending vet during the demos
  • Steve De Grey and Patrice Palleson-Putt, VERT volunteers who generously gave up their time to assist in the Equidays demos
  • Virginia Leighton-Jackson, our horse handler and my right hand
  • My sister Claire De Thierry who looked after the stand while Virginia and I went off to play in the dirt

If you have never been to Equidays NZ, you’re missing something special. The setting is absolutely glorious, the facilities are excellent, the international talent is the best to be found anywhere and the atmosphere is so much better than at Big Brother Equitana over the ditch. This was my second visit to Equidays NZ and I hope it won’t be the last.

Above, in the cutting arena for our horse float rescue scenario are four VERT volunteers with helpers from the audience. Back row from left are two gentlemen whose names I didn’t catch, with Patrice Palleson-Putt, Steve De Grey, Hayley Squance, Chris Riley and commentator, yours truly. Standing in front (with blue sleeves) is my lovely niece Andrea De Thierry with another two happy volunteers. Thank you all!