The Cotswolds’ most famous farmer, Adam Henson, joined a group of Gloucestershire firefighters at Hartpury this week for a vital training exercise.
The TV presenter and owner of the Cotswold Farm Park was at Hartpury with a crew from the BBC’s Countryfile to film Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service. The Gloucester North Station-based Black Watch were being trained in animal handling as part of their large animal rescue training.
At Hartpury’s farm for the morning session, the college’s Head of Agriculture, Janatha Stout, and one of the Service’s animal rescue specialist’s, Michael Keel, put firefighters through their paces before they headed over to Equine in the afternoon to learn more about horse handling and behaviour.
The show featuring the training exercise will be aired on Sunday, February 22nd at 7pm on BBC One.
Adam said: “Hartpury is perfect for this kind of training; it’s already set up for teaching purposes in both agriculture and equine and the lecturers here are so knowledgeable and are really skilled in communicating about these animals. Michael is a fantastic trainer too, so it’s a great team effort. And being a Gloucestershire boy, it’s right on my doorstep too!
“With Gloucestershire being such a rural county, dealing with livestock and other animals is part of the day job for the county’s firefighters. It’s not just fires on farms, animals can be involved in the RTCs they attend or they can get themselves into trouble on farmland.
“When they encounter animals in these difficult situations, the animals are likely to be frightened and stressed, so it’s really important that firefighters have experience of them and are confident in handling them. That’s why this course is so wonderful.
“Our viewers will get to see the lengths that the Fire Service goes to in order to serve our communities and how they overcome the challenges they face. It will also raise awareness of how skilled our firefighters are in dealing with these incidents and the specialist equipment they have at their disposal.
“Farmers care deeply about their animals and they can end up putting themselves in danger when their animals are in trouble. It’s reassuring for them to know that there are specialist teams on hand who can help to keep people and their animals safe.”
This was the fourth watch to be trained at Hartpury in animal rescue techniques in recent months. Michael and the college’s lecturers teach the firefighters about the best way to move and handle different animals and how to read and adjust to their behaviour.
The firefighters have the chance to work with cows, including the larger beef animals, calves, sheep and horses as part of the training.
Hartpury’s Head of Agriculture, Janatha Stout, said: “Firefighters need experience of working with livestock so it’s really important for them to familiarise themselves with them so that they are confident in working with them when they are in rescue situations.
“We teach them the best techniques for moving and handling with the aim of minimising stress to the animals and keeping themselves and the animals safe.
“As a college, we feel it’s important to share our resources to benefit the wider community, so we’re only too happy to support the Fire Service with this really important training. And, of course, you never know when we may need to call upon them for help.”
Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service has specialist rescue equipment for large animal rescues, including straps, slings and harnesses, as well as training all firefighters in these techniques.
Cllr Will Windsor-Clive, Gloucestershire County Council cabinet member responsible for fire and rescue, added: “The course enables our firefighters to get amongst livestock in farm and Equine environments and builds their confidence with them. It works really well having Hartpury’s agriculture lecturers instruct alongside us too.
“The specialist equipment is based at Gloucester North fire station but all of our firefighters receive training in animal rescue. With the county hosting so many high profile equine events and being so rural in its nature, it’s vital that our firefighters are well equipped and trained to deal with any situations that might arise.
“Animal rescue by its very nature can be very stressful for all involved. Owners and members of the public often allow emotions to cloud their judgement so putting their safety at risk. Large animals in distress have a huge potential to harm people. Having trained specialist crews helps protect the public, even saving lives and ensuring the animal is rescued in the safest and most humane way.”