As far as first responders to a crisis go, mounted ambulance officers James Stewart and Corey Milnes would be hard to beat.
At the first sign of trouble, the pair are ready to thunder across country on their ex-racehorses to an accident scene. Indeed, Corey’s mount Frank is the former racehorse Red Hot Chilli, who won five races in his career. He is now 12.
Stewart and Milnes were on duty at the weekend’s South Island Polo Classic at the Rangiora Showgrounds, adding support to ambulance officers on the ground. It is one of about 35 events the Christchurch-based mounted unit will attend this season.
They are part of a team of seven mounted St John Ambulance mounted medics who attend equestrian events throughout the Canterbury region, from Kaikoura in the north to Rolleston in the South.
The pair attract a lot of interest while on the job, with the public often asking them about their work – and having them pose for pictures.
As well as the polo, they can be seen at Pony Club and eventing competitions, as well as in the hunting field. In short, anywhere that vehicle access may be tricky. Being mounted means they can get to the scene of an accident quickly, and many of their patients are then moved for further treatment by helicopter.
Milnes (née Argue) is a former jockey. He was paralysed in a trackwork accident in 2007 and after a long rehabilitation made it back into the saddle. He returned to race riding, but opted to retire rather than risk further injury.
He wanted to put something back, and got involved with St John. The first step was completing a first responder course, followed by ambulance officer training. He assisted at the collapsed Canterbury Television building during the February 22 Christchurch earthquake, and after taking time out returned to St John working at equestrian events. He saw a need then for a mounted unit, and has been involved in the development of the mounted training programme.
His work with St John is voluntary, and he also works for the organisation at a part-time clinical tutor.