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Abbotsford firefighters rescue horse

Caretaker Ann Turner with the horse, which was injured but is recovering. - John Van Putten
Caretaker Ann Turner with the horse, which was injured but is recovering.
— image credit: John Van Putten

It wasn't the standard firefighter's call, and it was a long way from the classic cat-up-a-tree rescue.

A horse stuck with its head under a fence, at the bottom of a slope, with its legs pointing uphill.

The horse's caretaker said the animal was exhausted from trying to get up, and was bleeding from a badly ripped ear and other cuts. The mare was in dire need of some human know-how and muscle.

Dwayne Jones, a veteran firefighter of 16 years, was captain at Abbotsford Firehall 2 that weekend night. This scenario hadn't been in any training session, but he didn't want to let the callers down.

"We were going to give it our all," he said, and at the scene, he huddled with his three firefighters to come up with a plan.

Lifting even a portion of the 1,500-pound thoroughbred was not going to be part of the solution.

They dug underneath the horse to slip a strap under its front shoulders.

"With all four firefighters on the strap, we gave it the heave-ho," said Jones. "Inch by inch, we got it to where the horse was 90 degrees to the fence. It was quite a workout."

Andrew Mawdlsey, Travis Yeo and Amy Dalpre were the other firefighters providing the human horsepower.

The mare still lay on the ground, obviously tired and cold. She couldn't be left there, so they coaxed her into a sitting position. Once the horse realized she could stand, she finally pulled herself up on wobbly legs. The owners threw some blankets over her and got her into a stall.

"It's calls like this that make you feel good about yourself at the end of the day," said Jones.

It made the owner feel good, too.

Wendy Lee was not there the night Abbotsford firefighters rescued Riatt, but she had high praise for them.

"For the fire department, this was a very unusual situation which definitely took a lot of ingenuity and strength," she said in an email.

"I wanted the populace of Abbotsford to also know how blessed we are to have these heroes at our doorstep."

Riatt suffered multiple cuts and abrasions, the most serious being to the top of her head. The farm owners, Ann and Anthony Turner, have "slowly and lovingly been bringing my precious Riatt back to health," Lee said.

“The Fire Rescue Service often gets calls from the public to assist in all manners of emergencies not involving fires and as stated in our mission statement ... will provide emergency and public service needs for the community," said Fire Chief Don Beer. "The only limiting factor is not subjecting firefighters to undue danger or injury.”

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