GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. – Horses that were struggling after falling through thin ice in northwestern Alberta were saved by rescuers who cut paths to the shore with chainsaws.
Trevor Grant, the County of Grande Prairie’s fire chief, says 10 horses fell through a frozen dugout on a rural property on Sunday.
Only their heads were visible above the open patches of water that surrounded them.
Firefighters in yellow suits and wearing safety tethers to connect them to the shore were armed with chainsaws and other equipment as they ventured onto the ice to try to help the animals.
Grant says one horse had already died of injuries and two more died from exhaustion, but seven made it to safety.
Grant says he spoke with a veterinarian who told him the seven survivors are doing well.
“It was pretty overwhelming having that sheer number of horses in need,” Grant said Monday. “Bystanders were pretty excited, but the crews were able to get control of the situation and develop a plan.”
Grant said the animals weren’t as calm as regular horses because they were rodeo broncs. Still, he said, animals in need typically understand that people are there to help them.
Some of the firefighters were specially trained for large animal rescue, Grant said. They know how to save horses and livestock that fall though ice, get stuck in mud or fall down slopes.
In total, 35 firefighters helped in the rescue, which lasted nearly two hours.
“They were able to cut pathways in the ice to get the horses out to the shoreline. And then they used some specialized rigging such as slings to assist the horses out and onto the shore.”
Some of the animals were able to walk out and others were lifted to safety with special rigging.
RCMP weren’t able to say Monday whether they are investigating.