Horse Rescue

Hey, there’s a horse in the hayloft. Now what do we do?

Courtesy of Carol Witt Pugh

For the many talents horses possess, few are as universal as the ability to get themselves into jams. If you’ve been around horses long enough you’ve surely seen some strange things, but this one might take the cake. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.

Carol Witt Pugh of Botetourt County, Virginia, had just returned home from her daughter’s volleyball game late last Thursday evening when her husband made his way down to their barn to check on the family’s three horses. However, as he entered the barn, he only saw two…until he looked up and spotted the gelding, Phoenix, staring down from the hayloft.

The Roanoke Times has the story:

How did the 16-year-old gelding get up there? The Pughs have a theory. Her name is Dolly.
 
When they took in the 32-year-old mare a year ago, they were warned that the former rodeo horse could be a little bossy. “She is queen of the barn, queen of the pasture, she’s the queen of everything,” Pugh said.
 
Because of a recent flood, the horses were not in their stalls. In all likelihood, a tussle broke out and Phoenix took the first escape route he could find — knocking down a board blocking the stairs and clomping his way upstairs.

Needless to say, the Pughs were dumbfounded. Here it is late in the evening and you’re trying to process how this horse got up in the loft in the first place but then you have to figure out how to safely get him down.

Courtesy of Carol Witt Pugh
Courtesy of Carol Witt Pugh

Whatever motivated the palomino to seek higher ground was apparently not enough to coax him down the steep stairway. They tied Phoenix to a post with plenty of food and water as they frantically searched for a solution. Pugh reached out on social media and as The Times explains, she soon got a hit.

She had an answer from a friend the next morning: the Technical Large Animal Rescue Team at the Little Fork Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company in Culpeper County. Pugh called a number she found online and within minutes, Chief Doug Monaco was on the line.
 
“We’ve got this,” Monaco told her.
 
“This was definitely a unique situation,” Deputy Chief Jason Ferguson said. “That wasn’t on their list of things they had thought about a horse doing.”

Time was of the essence of course, and the options were limited. The rescue team quickly settled on a solution: they would have to sedate the horse and slide him down the stairs manually. This was further complicated by the fact Phoenix suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. After administering the sedative, they managed to safely slide Phoenix down the stairs and outside the barn.

But the ordeal was not over, as Phoenix had a bad reaction to the ketamine, forcing veterinarians to perform an emergency tracheotomy.

Thankfully, Pugh reports Phoenix is on his way to a full recovery.

Just when you thought you’d seen it all…

5 tips for safely getting a horse down from a hayloft
 
1. Calm down, breathe, focus
2. Pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming
3. Make sure they are secured and have food and water
4. Immediately call the local fire department
5. Pray

 

The Roanoke Times: Rescue team saves a horse from the hayloft of a Botetourt County barn