Matanuska-Susitna Borough

10 responders pull weary horse from frozen tr

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Saturday, January 10, 2009

On Christmas Eve, a horse had been struggling in frigid waters in a narrow trench in the Horseshow Lake area when emergency responders arrived to help.

Units of the Big Lake and Meadow Lakes Rescue and EMS Service, along with the Dive Rescue Team and an Animal Care responded.

When borough emergency response units and the animal control officer arrived on scene they found a horse that had fallen in a creek that feeds Hour Glass Lake. The horse was trapped up to its shoulders in an approximately five-foot deep bog that was barely wider than the horse. The owner of the barn where the horse was being kept said he believed the horse had been there at least six hours.

District II Chief Bill Gamble described the horse as in severe distress. “It was stuck in the bog mud on the bottom of the creek and it was clear to us it had been struggling to get out of the water for quite some time. The water was extremely cold and the outside air temperature was right at 5 below zero. I was very concerned about the condition of the horse," Gamble said.

Members of the Big Lake and Meadow Lakes Rescue Team along with the Dive Rescue Team donned survival suits and went into the water with the horse, placing lifting straps under the horse’s belly. With the animal control officer and another rescue team member controlling the head of the horse, and eight other responders pulling on the lifting straps, the horse was successfully pulled out of the creek. “It was an incredible effort on everybody’s part. The horse weighed approximately 800 pounds and it took every bit of strength we could muster to extricate the animal,” Gamble said.

While the rescue was taking place on the creek, the ambulance crew was taking care of the horse’s owner, Sally Beach, and another young adult who were hypothermic from trying to get the horse out of the creek for quite awhile. The Meadow Lakes and Big Lake EMS Chief, Glori Strickler was concerned about what might have happened. “The rescue actions of these folks was commendable. But the situation had all the potential for severe frost bite and severe hypothermia. Everybody needs to remember if you don’t take care of yourself first you can the make the situation even worse than it already is for everyone involved,” Strickler said.

As all this was going on the Emergency Dispatchers in Palmer were working with the incident commander, Chief Gamble, to find a veterinarian that would respond to the scene to assist with the care of the horse once she was removed from the creek. After numerous tries the dispatchers found Dr. Julie Grohs at the Alaska Equine Veterinary Clinic in Chugiak to respond and care for the Horse. “I talked with Sally this morning and she said the horse is doing fine but is still under observation," Gamble.

"It is very important to the volunteer responders that we are active in all aspects of our community. We want to help any way we can. It’s just part of who we are.”

"I would also like to thank the gentleman with the "bobcat" who plowed a path to the lake for us. It made our job a whole lot easier. And also the three young men on snow machines who made a path to the creek from the lake and gave a hand when needed. They should feel good about what they did," Gamble said. ”