Community Rallies to Save Horses Who Fell in Icy Pond

4 horses pulled out of frigid waters after 3-hour rescue effort in Montana
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2022 10:45 AM CST
Horses Were Playing Near an Icy Pond. The Ice Broke
Stock photo of horses in the snow.   (Getty Images/Nemyrivskyi Viacheslav)

Four horse siblings are doing A-OK after a terrifying ordeal earlier this month on a partially frozen Montana pond. The Washington Post reports that the incident took place Dec. 5 on the 80-acre Artemis Acres ranch in Kalispell, on a day with temperatures hovering in the teens. Ranch manager Alexis Langlois says she found out the horses, one of which she owns, fell into the pond when a neighbor came pounding on her door that afternoon. Langlois says she rushed to the pond with that neighbor, where they saw the horses, who each weigh about 1,200 pounds, neck-deep in the icy waters, struggling to get out. Langlois, who saw each of the horses born and trained them, says she felt helpless. "I'm their mom," she says. "There's nothing I could have possibly done to help them."

She called 911, as well as one of the ranch's owners, and while she was waiting for emergency responders to arrive, "people just started showing up," she says. "Neighbors were pouring in. People came with ropes, chain saws, shovels, and pickaxes." The fire department soon came, too, as did animal control officers and staff from a nearby farm, and they all tried to figure out how to retrieve the horses, an effort further hampered by the thick mud at the edge of the pond. Langlois, meanwhile, couldn't get too close to the rescue effort, because whenever the horses got a glimpse of her, they "started climbing on top of each other to try to get out" of the 15-foot-wide pond, she says, adding, "I had to stay away from the edge for my own safety and theirs. I tried to calm them down with my voice."

After two hours of trial and error, the band of rescuers came up with a method to yank the horses out. Firefighters got into the icy water to tie straps under the horses' chests, and then, working on one horse at a time, emergency responders secured a rope around the animal, which was then pulled by about a dozen people and a tractor. It took about three hours to get all four horses out. "I was surprised that we got the first one out, and actually shocked that we were able to get all of them out alive," fire chief Chris Yerkes says. "It was a great feeling of relief." Langlois, who notes that the pond has never been an issue in the 10 years she's worked at the ranch, tells NBC Montana that the horses are all doing well after their experience. "It was an amazing day," she says. "The community really pulled together for this one." (More uplifting news stories.)

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