Public safety officers need all kinds of equipment in emergency situations, from weapons to the jaws of life, but, after all, this is Aiken: They also need equipment to rescue animals.
"Don't walk up and starting patting it, its instinct is to say, "Leave me alone," Dr. Rebecca Gimenez says.
In many emergency situations, police officers' instincts are dead-on, here, not so much:
"The problem with police officers is they're usually in situations where they must control the situation, so they try to control the horse. Nothing can control the horse," Gimenez says.
"I was wrong, I would've done everything wrong," Master Public Safety Officer George Gymer says.
But now he won't: He took part in LART, that's Large Animal Rescue Training with the Aiken Department of Public Safety. The training teaches officers how to harness and handle horses in scary situations. That's important because even though to the officer the horse may be large and in charge:
"It's scary," Gymer says, "I'm 180 pounds to a 950 pound horse, so he can do whatever he wants to me."
The horse is actually scared of him. So, how can an officer get the horse to do what he wants? That's where Dr. Rebecca Gimenez comes in with words of wisdom:
"It's absolutely terrified, it thinks you're a lion," she says, "so your job is to prove you're not a lion."
She gave the officers some hands-on horse sense about how to guide a horse...and even how to put a horse in a sling. Yes, these things actually do come up in Aiken.
"It an be two o'clock in the morning or three o'clock in the afternoon, and we receive a call that horses have gotten loose," Lt. Jake Mahoney says.
"Some on Whiskey Road, and we have to learn how to control them when there's so much chaos," Gymer adds.
Because those real-life situations are different than this peaceful paddock, they even simulated a scare.
And Gimenez did have one more hint: Don't try to tell the horse that help is on the way.
"If you're a human and you hear a siren, you think, 'Thank goodness someone's coming to save me.' If you're a horse, you say, 'Oh my goodness what am I going to do.'"
Here's another great part to all this: No tax dollars went to pay for it for the rescue equipment. The Aiken equine community got together to donate more than $50,000 worth of equipment; much of that came from the Aiken SPCA. Aiken is the only public safety department with horse rescue equipment in the state. During other equine events, other jurisdictions borrow that equipment to ensure horses, the public, and police officers stay safe.
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