A Norwegian Fjord horse who had been missing for several days in Redmond, Wash. was successfully rescued yesterday afternoon by the Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART). According WASART president Bill Daugaard, who was on-scene throughout the rescue, the situation was hazardous and had to be completed during daylight hours.
The horse, named Gemma, was rescued after 12 hours of work from crews with nine different agencies. The groups that helped with the rescue include, but are not limited to:
Eastside Search and Rescue, Mounted Search and Rescue, Seattle Mountain Rescue, King County 4×4 Rescue, Redmond Fire Department, and King County Sheriff’s Office.
According to WASART, there was a discussion yesterday about a trail that led to the horse’s location. While the rescue responders initially believed that they could clear some trees and brush to walk the horse out, the land proved to be too steep and difficult and the horse was too tired.
WASART started rigging the horse to lift her out and more help arrived. WASART used their own equipment until some of the help arrived, at which point they added ropes to what was already set up. With a mix of equipment and manpower, this animal rescue truly was a collaborative team effort.
According to WASART, all of the organizations that participated were professional, knowledgeable, and wonderful to work with.
“We went last night and assessed the site, determining that it was a very hazardous situation; she was about 30 feet down an almost-vertical (high angle) cliff on a small ledge, with more steep-angle terrain below,” stated Bill Daugaard.
“Her handler and owner’s daughter were with her and she was essentially uninjured, which was a near miracle.
“It was too dangerous to try to raise her that night and it was impossible to look for alternate ways to get her out. So we decided to call it for the night and start again at 6:30 this morning,” Daugaard added.
WASART typically gets called in to help with a rescue in one of two ways. An owner will either call their hotline with request for assistance or an official government agency will call, such as someone with the sheriff’s office or the Pierce County Auditor’s Office.
According to WASART, they never self-deploy and jump in without being asked for their assistance.
A WASART team of 8 initially responded to check out the incident. According to WASART, the team called in one more member who was especially experienced with rigging to help advise.
Due to the hazardous conditions, the rescue was delayed until 6:30am, when light would help keep everyone safe. During that time, Elin remained by her horse’s side.
Fjords like Gemma are small but sturdy horses. Tipping the scales at approximately 800 pounds, rescuing the horse from the 70-foot ravine was no small feat. Veterinarian Tom Hansen went into the ravine and sedated Gemma to ensure that she wouldn’t thrash while she was rescued.
According to WASART, the final effort involved a vertical lift. The pony was rigged using firehose and lifted straight up the ravine. Firehose is used for its strength and flatness, which helps distribute the weight of a large animal to keep it secure and comfortable.
Nine agencies were on-scene, including King County 4×4 Search and Rescue, Eastside Search and Rescue, and the Redmond Fire Department.
A total of sixty people participated in lifting the horse out.
WASART Spokesperson Gretchen McCallum said: “She’s safe and doing well. She’s a little thin, very hungry, and curious as to what all the attention is about.
“We’re pleased with the outcome for this horse and especially the rescuers. This was a technically difficult situation and safety is always our priority. We are grateful to everyone who helped. We are fortunate to have such great partners.”
The rescue was completed around 3 p.m. on Tuesday. Gemma was tired, but other than a scratch on her face, she had no other injuries.
Congratulations and thank you to all involved.
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