When a horse finds himself stuck in a hayloft, it takes a very special group of rescuers to get him to safety once again.
Imagine you walk into your barn one evening to feed when you hear strange noises coming from the hayloft above. As you walk up the flight of stairs leading to the loft, you are shocked to discover that one of your horses has actually made his way up into the hayloft. Now he's trapped, unable to go down the stairs. What do you do?
That's the exact predicament that a horse owner in Botetourt County, Virginia, faced. The owner found that her horse, Phoenix, had gotten into a fight with a mare. In the process, the horses broke down the barrier keeping them from the stairs leading to the hayloft. Apparently, Phoenix made his way up the stairs, but coming back down them wasn't so easy.
The owner attempted to get Phoenix down the stairs on her own, but to no avail. After turning to Facebook for help, she was advised to contact the Little Fork Volunteer Technical Large Animal Team, which specializes in large animal rescue. The team, three hours from the horse's location, set out and the owner called a vet to be on site at their arrival.
While waiting for the Little Fork team to arrive, the owner was told to feed and groom Phoenix to keep him as calm and relaxed as possible. Ultimately, three Botetourt County Animal Control Officers, seven firefighters/EMS personnel from Botetort County Fire and Rescue, and three firefighters from the Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire Company arrived. Then, they began to come up with a plan.
The team had a rescue glide which, with some careful positioning, could fit down the stairs. It was decided that Phoenix would be heavily sedated, moved onto the glide, and then lowered down the stairs. A chain hoist was set up, and a secondary system of a rope and pulley system was anchored to a different area in the barn. The team then performed a "dry run" to make sure that the system would work with Phoenix on board. The dry run went smoothly.
Complicating the rescue, though, was the fact that Phoenix had COPD, meaning that the team would have to minimize the amount of time he was sedated. They also couldn't tighten the straps holding him to the glide as tightly as they would normally. However, the rescue had to be performed, and the vet sedated Phoenix. He was secured to the board using carabiners, webbing, and rescue glide straps. Then, the descent began.
Ultimately, the team used only the rope and pulley system to move Phoenix down the stairs. His legs had to be carefully positioned and adjusted to avoid getting caught in the stairwell, and as you can see, the rescue was a tremendous team effort.
Ultimately, Phoenix was safely brought down the stairs.
But his struggle wasn't over. Once outside, Phoenix was unhitched and tried to stand. Unfortunately, Phoenix went into respiratory arrest and the vet had to perform an emergency tracheotomy.
Luckily, Phoenix recovered and is doing just fine today.
This story is proof of what is possible when enough people come together to help out an animal in need - no matter how impossible the situation initially seems.
To read the full account of this rescue, be sure to visit the Little Fork Volunteer Technical Large Animal Rescue Team's Facebook page. By the way, the Little Fork team is entirely funded by donations - if you would like to donate, you can do so here.