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Horse rescue takes team effort
By Gretchen McCallum
For The Courier-Herald
When the Enumclaw Police Department called the Washington State Animal Response Team at 6:45 p.m. Jan. 18, a 4-year-old gelding had been marooned at the bottom of a 15-foot drainage ditch for nearly three hours.
The ditch was filled with two to three feet of water and Buddy was cold, wet and exhausted from trying to struggle up its steep and slippery sides. His owner, Shannon Cole of Enumclaw, had tried to lead him south down the ditch to a creek inlet but the way was blocked by blackberries and a downed tree.
Hypothermia was a concern.
After obtaining more information from Cole, WASART duty officer Greta Cook set the wheels in motion for a rescue.
She began the process of coordinating the deployment of a trained and experienced field response team to the scene at Scherazade Farm in Enumclaw.
After the team was assembled and briefed, Cook set off to the scene. Her husband Aaron followed with a generator and shop lights. Meeting them at the farm was Ken Cottle and the WASART supplies and equipment trailer and the remaining members of the Field Response Team – Gretchen McCallum, Lynn Henke, veterinarian Heather Stewart, all of Enumclaw, and Ken Hasbargen of Bonney Lake.
Property owner Dick Mill also was on the scene.
The drainage ditch bisects two pastures and is approximately 30 feet wide, with steep sides. It is fenced on the west side with blackberry brambles limiting access. The unfenced east side provided more open access and better accommodated equipment.
Sgt. Fuchser and Officer Jenee Westberg, animal control officers from Regional Animal Services of King County, arrived and were updated. Steve Sandal, a horse owner and boarder at Scherazade Farm, was in the ditch cutting back blackberries. He was familiar with the horse and took control of the lead rope.
Cook and Stewart joined Sandal and Buddy in the ditch.
The group’s first decision was to try to lead Buddy up the bank where he had slid down.
Floodlights lit the darkness while WASART’s John VandeVoort shoveled a stepped path and cut back the overhanging lip and blackberries to make way for Buddy.
Cook and Stewart rigged Buddy with a 4-inch rescue strap and the group attempted to guide and pull the horse up the bank.
Buddy, too exhausted to make the journey, collapsed and would not move. His condition was deteriorating rapidly.
Quickly, neighbor Ken Olson was called and young Kaliber Olson brought their large tractor to the site.
Cook and Stewart rigged Buddy, this time with a 1 1/2-inch fire hose lift harness. The blackberry bushes on the bank were cut away and a tarp was placed over them to protect the horse from debris during the lift.
The noise of the tractor made communication difficult, but in one smooth motion, the tractor was able lift Buddy up and onto the pasture where he rested for a few minutes before getting to his feet.
He was blanketed and offered hay and water.
Cole walked Buddy slowly back to the barn on his unsteady feet. He was put in a stall where the rigging was removed and he was towel dried then blanketed. Veterinarian Robert Campbell arrived to check his condition and give him a clean bill of health.
By 10 p.m., the WASART team was loaded up, washed off and on the road.
“The end result was what everyone had worked for, an uninjured and healthy horse extracted from a situation where he could possibly have drowned,” McCallum said. “Everyone worked cooperatively together and Buddy is now completely recovered from his ordeal. The Washington State Animal Response Team thanks everyone who assisted in this endeavor.”