Meadow and Zihna’s owner’s heart sank with his horses as he watched the two and three-year-olds fall through the ice at the center of a two acre-pond last week.
Top: Derrick Forsythe/Warrenton County Record
Warrenton County, Mo., firefighters raced to the scene, where they zipped into special ice-rescue suits as the panicked horses, submerged to their necks, swam around in the center of the frigid pond.
“They were struggling. They were having a difficult time. We knew we needed to get them out as quick as possible,” Fire Chief Mike Owenby told the Warren County Record, whose photographer Derrick Forsythe captured dramatic photos of the rescue.
Fortunately, the firefighters had an ice-rescue training session two days earlier, complete with hi-tech insulated suits (coincidentally called Mustang suits) the department bought last year, reports Ozarksfirst.com. Their training, however, was based around rescuing a 200-pound person, not a half-ton equine. Or two of them.
Quickly assessing the situation, firefighters hauled out another critical ice-rescue tool: their chainsaw.
“We knew we were going to have to get into the water and break (the ice) up by hand,” said Owenby. “We figured if we got the horses moving in the right direction, their instincts would guide them to the bank.”
Owenby and Captain Tony Hayeslip slithered out, atop the ice, to the center of the pond, where the horses were struggling. Then, they used the chain saw to cut a path through the ice to dry land, using their body weight to manipulate the heavy chunks of ice.
Zihna quickly swam to safety, but Meadow continued to panic, desperately trying to climb up out of the ice in the middle of the pond.
Owenby, who owns a rescue horse, was able to calm Meadow and guide her to safety.
“They’re my heroes,” said Tina Churchill, who owns the horses with her husband. “They came to the rescue and were here in a heartbeat and jumped right in a situation that they weren’t necessarily required to do and saved the day and saved these horses.”
“These horses are important to a lot more people than just our family,” she said. Meadow and Zihna are used in therapy with mentally troubled children. Volunteers helped towel and blow-dry the horses, who escaped the ordeal with just a few cuts on their legs.
The entire rescue, from the time of the 911 call to when the horses stumbled onto dry land, took about an hour, reports horsetalk.co.nz. Dramatic footage from the scene makes firefighter’s rescuing a cat from a tree look like child’s play in comparison.
Tony Hayeslip captured the action on his cellphone:
Here’s the story on CNN: