You can lead a horse to water — but if it happens to fall in, there’s a specially trained team of first responders in Fort Collins, Colorado, who can help get it out.
After a horse named Krissie ended up in the partially frozen water of a family swimming pool last week in the city an hour north of Denver, a special local rescue team grabbed its unique gear and hoofed it to the site. Coffee or Die Magazine spoke with Poudre Fire Authority spokesperson Annie Bierbower to get the details straight from the horse’s mouth.
According to Bierbower, firefighters from the PFA Large Animal Rescue Team (LART) arrived at a home around 7 p.m. to find that Krissie, a 20-year-old female horse weighing a little over 1,000 pounds, had somehow escaped her corral and fallen into a half-filled, ice-cold pool. Adding to the night-mare scenario, the pool was full of slushy snow from a massive mid-March blizzard that dumped 20 inches of snow on Fort Collins, the 11th biggest snowfall in city history. Krissie’s owner had jumped into the pool to help, but Krissie was unable to stay standing on the slippery pool bottom, and her energy was rapidly waning.
By the time firefighters arrived, Krissie was struggling to keep her head out of the water. The team went to work right away, some members calming Krissie down, while others set up rescue equipment. Two firefighters put on thick, rubber diving-style ice rescue suits and hopped into the pool to assist with keeping Krissie’s head out of the water.
Bierbower said the Fort Collins community is full of animal lovers, as is the LART team.
“I think it’s a mix of the people we hire and the resources that we’re able to have, so it’s definitely a really good place to be,” Bierbower said. “A community that supports animal rescues, a staff that supports animal rescues [make for] some of the most unique and I would say, special calls for people that a lot of times have happy endings. Some are sad, but a lot of the time, it’s such a cool thing to be able to help an animal.”
More than a dozen police officers, paramedics, and firefighters worked together with the LART team to hoist Krissie up an oversized rescue board using a rope and pulley system. Though cold, Krissie was able to stand on her own once out of the freezing water.
FINAL UPDATE: The horse was successfully removed from the pool at about 7:20 pm. Firefighters, police officers, paramedics, and others worked to warm the horse while it was attended to by a veterinarian from CSU. It was stabilized and transported to the CSU Vet Hospital. pic.twitter.com/G7aw2rqzW9
— poudrefire (@poudrefire) March 20, 2021
A veterinarian from Colorado State University was also on scene and started emergency care as soon as Krissie was free.
Both Krissie and her owner were transported to hospitals for assessments after the long exposure to freezing water. Krissie was transported to the CSU Veterinary Hospital where she was monitored overnight, while her owner was taken to a traditional hospital. Both are home and doing well, Bierbower said.
Krissie’s rescue wasn’t the Poudre LART team’s first rodeo. Bierbower said that the team has had six calls in 2021, four for rescues, two for problem animals. The group was formed several years ago to respond to calls that have included horses, cows, and deer. They utilize a combination of equipment including a large animal rescue trailer, ropes, pulleys, and oversized sleds. The LART has an agreement with the CSU Veterinary Hospital that dispatches on-call veterinarians to its calls so the animals can have immediate care.
In addition to having access to the special equipment, members of the LART undergo continual training on how to calm down large animals, safety procedures, and various other techniques necessary when dealing with a panicked, large animal.
Krissie’s owner, Jody Eckery, later commented on PFA’s Facebook post: “You all have no idea the depth of gratitude we owe you. Thank you sooo much for a job well done and [for] saving our horse at your own risk. Truly our heroes.” Another commenter wrote, “They were absolutely beyond awesome [the PFA Fort Collins officers] that were there and EMS and [CSU vet] Luke Bass and his assistant with him. 20 years we’ve had this sweet girl and she is going to be back doing her old tricks. [… I] had no idea PFA had this large animal rescue unit but it is well beyond worth it.”