April 22, 2024

Volunteers worked into the night to rescue a horse that fell through a rotted bridge and got trapped in Washington.

Volunteers labored into the night time to rescue a horse that fell by a rotted bridge and received trapped in Washington.

Screenshot from Washington Point out Animal Response Group on Facebook

Volunteers worked into the night to rescue a horse that had fallen through a rotted wooden bridge on a Washington trail.

The Washington State Animal Response Team rigged up a pulley system to hoist the horse from the hole in the bridge on Sunday, Aug. 13, officials said in an Aug. 15 Facebook post.

The team of 33 volunteers hiked half a mile up the trail to scope out the situation and devised a plan to help Dakota the horse. They then hauled heavy gear — including rope bags, rigging equipment, a glide, a device to protect Dakota’s head and eyes, a Becker bar and slings — back up the trail to Dakota and her owner.

Dakota’s owner, Dawn DeFreece, said in comments on the post she was riding her other horse behind Dakota when it happened.

She didn’t give details about the moment, but by the time the rescue team arrived, Dakota was trapped on the bridge.

The horse’s right hind leg fell completely through a hole up to her pelvic bone, officials said. Her left hind leg was splayed sideways on the bridge deck, but it would periodically get caught in a notch from a missing piece of wood along the edge. Her front hooves were hooked over the other edge of the bridge.

At times, she rested her head and neck on one of the bridge’s railings and drank water from DeFreece’s hands, officials said. But she tried to raise her front end every 10 minutes and was “clearly distressed,” officials said.

The rescuers worried about any additional rotting wood around the hole, so they passed webbing beneath the boards and fastened them to the top of the bridge posts, officials said. Then they rigged up a pulley system to hoist the horse out of the hole.

Photos show a team member climbed 40 feet up a tree and set up a highline over the bridge to haul Dakota out of the hole. The team did this on both sides of the bridge so they could free her hind end, officials said.

Dakota’s veterinarian came to check on her condition and sedate her, and then it was time to pull her up and out.

The team raised Dakota up by nearly one foot and hauled her leg out of the hole with the rear-pulley system. Then the rescuers covered the hole with a slip sheet and laid the horse on the bridge deck, officials said.

They lifted her again to secure Becker slings under her front and hind ends and fastened the slings to the Becker bar. They placed the glide under her and pulled the glide to the end of the bridge, officials said.

They paused for about 20 minutes at the end of the bridge to let the sedative wear off. Then they lifted Dakota to her feet and slowly eased the slings down to test if she could support her weight, officials said.

Luckily, Dakota stood and walked forward a few steps. Her owner and veterinarian walked her back to the parking lot and loaded her into a horse trailer to take her home, officials said.

Dakota walked away from the ordeal with all her bones intact, but not exactly unscathed, her owner said.

“She is very (swollen) and beat up,” DeFreece said. “Some of her skin is starting (to) shaft off.” Still, the endeavor was “nothing short of a miracle,” someone commented.

Someone else said the rescue brought them to tears.

“We wish Dakota a full recovery and many happy trails in her future,” officials said.

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Brooke (she/them) is a McClatchy True-Time reporter who covers LGBTQ+ enjoyment news and countrywide parks out west. They studied journalism at the College of Florida, and beforehand included LGBTQ+ news for the South Florida Sunshine Sentinel. When they’re not creating stories, they enjoy hanging out with their cats, using horses or spending time outdoors.