In a rural community, residents' four-legged friends tend to outweigh their two-legged companions. With that in mind, a few area residents jumped at the opportunity to take part in a recent large animal rescue training.

Erath County Volunteer Fire Rescue firefighters F.H. Croft and Brad Smith and local veterinarian Rickey Osterloh, of Brazos Valley Equine Hospital in Morgan Mill, attended the Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Course in Brazos Valley Equine Hospital's Navasota office.

The Texas Forestry Service even anted up for the effort by providing ECVFR with grant funding to attend the course, which was sponsored by the Texas Engineering Extension Service.

ECVFR Fire Coordinator Chris Gable said the specialized training has been a need for the department for some time.

And Smith said the local firefighters are confident that their recently acquired skills will come in handy.

"The fire department has responded to several horse rescues over the years," Smith said, adding that the county crew is now better equipped to rescue large animals. "We knew there was a better way to do the job for the safety of the firefighters and the animals."

Smith said the course's lead instructors, Rebecca and Tomas Gimenez, explained that while animals are usually able to save themselves, there are times when a technical rescue is needed, such as in a vehicle accidents that involve a horse trailer.

"If horses are trapped in a trailer, the first priority is the safety of the people involved in the accident and then we tend to the animals," Smith said, adding that the fire department calls on a veterinarian to serve as part of the rescue team.

Smith said the training also included a simulated barn fire with horses trapped inside, water/mud rescues, livestock trailer rescues and general lifting techniques.

In an effort to become more effective with their newfound knowledge, Gable said ECVFR hopes to obtain large animal technical rescue equipment to aid in rescue of large animals as funding becomes available.

Anyone wishing to help purchase the equipment can contact ECVFR at 254-965-3388.