The National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA), producer of the world’s richest equine events outside of racing and a leader in animal welfare, recently unveiled a custom-built horse ambulance to be available on-site at all major NCHA events.
“We were the first Western stock horse performance association to develop a medication policy and now we are the first to provide an on-site ambulance with a specially trained emergency team,” said Lindy Burch, past president of the association and chairman of its horse and cattle welfare committee.
“Hopefully we never have an accident, but if we do, we can safely and easily move an animal into the ambulance, where it can be stabilized by our on-site veterinarian, and transported from the arena to an emergency equine veterinary clinic. “
Jerry Durant, owner of Durant Auto Group and a cutting horse owner, has donated the use of a new Chevy pickup for the ambulance during the NCHA shows.
The ambulance was custom built by Kyle Zanetti Trailers in Weatherford, Texas, with input from Burch, NCHA welfare committee member Chris Benedict, and two equine sports veterinary specialists. Its many features include a hydraulic ramp and a winch-operated Becker sling system to stabilize or suspend a horse, depending on its injuries.
“I make trailers for people who want special features that regular manufacturers can’t provide,” said Kyle Zanetti, whose father, Pete Zanetti, began manufacturing horse trailers in 1976 in Apple Valley, Calif. Today, Zanetti owns the business and builds custom trailers with the help of six employees.
“The NCHA Equine Ambulance was a collaboration with Lindy and Chris, who told me what was needed and shared their knowledge,” Zanetti said. “But I did everything in my shop and have had my hands on every part of this trailer.”
“We as cutters are very proactive in caring for our horses,” Burch said. “We love them. We want to protect their welfare in training and during competition, and having an equine ambulance at our events will give us peace of mind that we are better prepared if an accident does take place.”
The sport of cutting evolved from cattle roundups, where calves were separated from their mothers for branding by cowboys or cowgirls on horseback. Today’s cutting competition demands highly skilled and conditioned athletes able to counter evasive calves with powerful precision, and at breathtaking speed.
“They are just like human athletes,” noted Burch, an NCHA Open World Champion, Hall of Fame Rider and NCHA Open Futurity Champion who has been showing for four decades. “Sometimes they get sore or injured during training and we treat and rehab them. But in all the years I have been competing, I have seen very few horses incur a serious injury during competition, because we do everything we can do to keep them comfortable and in optimum shape.
“Still, it is good to know the ambulance is there, if something does happen to a horse or even a cow. And in the future, we hope to make it available to other equine events.”
In addition to the hydraulic ramp and winch-operated sling system, the ambulance can be lowered 3.5 inches for ease of loading, and also carries a special “sled” that can be placed underneath a prostrate animal and winched inside the trailer.
Other features include a full air-ride suspension; alleys and doors to provide easy access to the animal from both sides; a 12 volt LED lighting system; a converter-charging system so that it can be plugged into a 110 volt outlet, when parked; cushioned Polylast flooring with anti-fungal and bacterial properties; and ample storage and refrigeration for medical supplies.