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Horse rescued in Fallowfield

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 12:07 a.m.
Casey the horse stands after a 5-hour rescue process in Fallowfield Township on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. Wayne Ray | For The Valley Independent
Casey the horse is unable to get up from the floor of her stall in Fallowfield Township. After several hours, Fallowfield firefighters and the Washington County Animal Rescue team were able to get the 29-year-old horse to a standing position. Jan. 3, 2013. Wayne Ray | For The Valley Independent

A horse is a horse … unless it's nearly three decades old, weighs more than a ton and cannot get up under its own power.

That's the situation Fallowfield Township volunteer firefighters faced for nearly six hours Thursday morning before they and members of the Washington County Animal Response Team were able to finally get Casey, a 29-year old female Belgian Draft horse, back onto her feet at her 90 Debnar Lane home.

Fallowfield Township Fire Chief Anthony Fleming said rescue workers were able to cradle the horse with straps and pull her from the 10-by-20 foot stable using a rope and pulley system.

The horse is retired and “living out her life,” Fleming said. Casey's age is fairly old for her breed, said Fleming who received the call around 5:40 a.m.

“The gist of it is that the horse weighed over 2,000 pounds and a horse that size can't lay for that long,” Fleming said. “Long story short, the horse lays down for too long and that cuts off the circulation in its legs. You have to be careful not to harm the animal and you're not as aggressive as you would normally be (with human rescues).”

The horse's owner, Laura Gilbert, did not return a message left with a relative Thursday evening.

A veterinarian, identified only as “Jennifer,” was on scene to relax the animal and administer sedatives, he said.

“The horse was resisting and that was the most difficult part,” Flemming said. “You try to keep her calm as far as not hurting herself.”

Slippery conditions from ice and snow both helped and hindered the effort, Flemming said.

“We were able to drag the horse about 20 feet,” he said. “It hurt us with traction, but once we got her out onto the ice, she slid more easily.”

The team was finally able to secure Casey and get her to stand on her own in a pile of packed snow and hay. Casey was soon rewarded with a bucket of feed for her efforts.

“She was laying on her left, and when we were able to roll her to her right side, and she actually got up on her front legs,” he said. “Thirty seconds later we helped her up onto her back legs and stayed with her for about 20 minutes.

“It would be no different than a human who just took a hit in football,” he added. “Once they're OK, they're OK.”

Fleming and some of his fellow firefighters have become quasi-experts on equine rescue.

“We've taken classes on how to handle the animal and learn their body language,” he said. “We actually had one here in Fallowfield about three years ago the county put on for us. In the past two years, we've done about four or five (horse rescues). To be honest, this is pretty much par for the course around here.”

It was also the second time Fallowfield firefighters responded to help Casey, following a similar situation last June.

“We were actually able to get her up quicker this time. From what the owner told us, we should expect to be back,” Fleming said with a laugh. “We're better equipped than we were in the past and the gratitude of the owners is enough for us. In no way do we see it as time wasted.”

“We're not prejudiced against who our customers are.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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