Florida Horse Rescued from Creek

It took more than 35 people to extract a 1,600-pound Hanoverian from a creek yesterday morning (June 6) near Orlando, Fla. The 17.1-hand gelding had been trapped in the 25-foot-wide miry creek with slippery banks for at least three hours when he was found.

Rex, an 8- to 10-year-old chestnut dressage horse and jumper, escaped from his paddock at William Equestrian boarding/training facility sometime before dawn on June 6. When the owner of the farm found Rex in his predicament at 7:00 a.m., he called Cristina Arellano, DVM, of Orlando Equine Veterinary Care.

"When the barn was closed up the night before he was in a paddock, and the next morning, he wasn't," said Arellano, who says she thinks the gate latch was broken. "The other horse that was in his paddock stayed up near the barn. We think (Rex) ran onto the rickety old bridge, spooked, and jumped into the creek thinking it was solid ground." The creek was filled with weeds that were several feet high, possibly disguising the water's surface.

"The bank was really high and it was pure, really slick muck; he couldn't get his legs out," said Arellano. When she arrived, Rex's head and a third of his neck were out of the water. "Once I saw how deep the bank was, and that he wasn't trying (to extricate himself), I said, 'That's it, we're calling the fire department.' The banks were muck. When I got in to try to put a rope around his thorax, I sunk up to my waist in the mud."

Arellano and the firefighters tried to use a winch and ropes around Rex's body to help get him out, but the ropes were slipping using that method. They switched to manpower, by which they could "finesse" Rex out of the muck more easily. "We got his front legs out, but he couldn't get the rest of his body out, as he was kind of sucked down into the mud," she said. After episodes of struggling, "he'd give up and lie there with his eyes closed, taking shallow little breaths. He was so exhausted."

After sedating Rex with Rompin to reduce his struggling, the group of about 35 firefighters and various people from the area pulled him up onto dry ground, where he rested until the sedation faded. "He was dehydrated and exhausted, and his limbs were shaking a little bit, but overall, I was pretty impressed," said Arellano. "There were no major wounds, just a lot of superficial little abrasions.

"We gave him IV fluids and Banamine and sprayed AluSpray on his abrasions," she added, noting that Rex was bathed multiple times to remove the thick layer of grime, and someone applied standing bandages to his legs. She was going back to check Rex today for any unusual swelling that might have resulted from undetected puncture wounds.

Arellano noted how well the emergency personnel worked with her on managing the incident. "They were really helpful," she said. "Nothing happened that the (fire) chief didn't plan with me, which was really nice. It's great to see everyone come together and work together and cooperate." She referred the chief and others to the University of Florida when they inquired about purchasing a sling that could be utilized in future incidents such as these.

Rex should recover well from his mishap, according to Arellano. "He was sound at the walk, although he did have a big lump on his neck where he hit a tree."

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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