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After Ill-Advised Shortcut, 2 Horses Are Rescued in a 5-Hour Mission

LocalAfter Ill-Advised Shortcut, 2 Horses Are Rescued in a 5-Hour Mission

It took five hours, nearly 50 people and a makeshift bridge of ropes and logs, but a complex rescue effort in Connecticut this weekend successfully freed two horses, Damascus and Beau, after they became stuck in a swampy mess.

Jeanna Prink, the director of Stirrup Fun Stables Rescue, the nonprofit rescue and rehabilitation center where Damascus and Beau live, said that the horses got stuck up to their armpits in mud on Saturday while taking a “shortcut that they shouldn’t have taken,” between a pasture and a barn.

“Horses are known for getting themselves into trouble, they are curious by nature,” Ms. Prink said.

Both horses had found safe haven at the farm in Lebanon, Conn., after being rescued from difficult situations. Damascus, a 20-year-old Percheron, arrived at the stables after the farm saved him from an auction’s kill pen, where horses are sold to buyers who take them to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered for food. The previous owners of Beau, a 24-year-old quarter horse, brought him to the farm because they were unable to adequately care for him as they got older.

Ms. Prink said that Beau and Damascus went missing on Saturday, and farm workers spent a couple of hours looking for them before finding the horses stuck in the mud. After a spending a couple more hours trying to get the horses out, the workers ultimately had to call for outside help.

The Lebanon Volunteer Fire Department received a call about the stuck horses around 2 p.m. Jay Schall, the department’s chief, said he was at his son’s soccer game when he learned about the problem. He said he left the game, arrived at the farm and saw a “logistical nightmare.”

Beau and Damascus were deep in mud in a heavily wooded area that was difficult to access. The department rescues one or two large animals each year, Mr. Schall said, but the scale of this rescue was larger than anything he had seen before.

The Durham Animal Response Team, a Connecticut group that is experienced at pulling large animals out of mud, was also called to assist.

The plan was to pull the horses out of the swamp and roll them onto a sled-like device made of rigid plastic so that they could be pulled about 30 yards to solid ground.

“They were breathing very quickly,” Mr. Schall said. “They were definitely in distress and they were extremely tired, because they thrashed around to try and get out of the mud and they had no energy.

“By the time we started the rescue,” he said, “they didn’t even move, they just laid there.”

About 45 people were involved in the rescue, including about 40 who were in the woods using ropes, saws, plywood and logs to build a makeshift bridge across the waist-deep mud.

It took about 30 minutes to extract each horse. One had been stuck in the mud for about seven hours, Mr. Schall said, and the other had been stuck for three to four hours.

“They were very calm and allowed us to get them out of the woods,” Mr. Schall said.

After the horses were moved across the bridge to safety, they lay down for between 30 minutes and an hour before getting up.

The Fire Department said in a news release that, by around 6:20 p.m., both horses were warm enough to stand and happily eat some fresh hay.

“They were a little stiff and sore the next day, but right now they are acting normal like nothing ever happened,” Ms. Prink said. “They are doing amazing.”

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