A big lift for a horse in a spot

After animal falls into residential swimming pool on August 29


Cliff Buchan
News Editor

It took nearly three hours but the 15-year-old mare that fell into a covered swimming pool last week was safely removed, thanks to the efforts of man and machine. (Photo by Cliff Buchan)

It’s not everyday that the fire department is called to rescue a horse from a swimming pool.

That’s what happened on Wednesday, Aug. 29 in Forest Lake when a horse wandered onto a covered residential swimming pool, fell in and became marooned.

The mare is now safe following a successful rescue effort by Forest Lake Fire & Rescue who received a big assist by a veterinarian from Sunrise Equine Veterinarian Service, North Branch.

Forest Lake police and fire personnel were called to the Tim McKenzie home, 8155 N. 210th St., after the horse became trapped in the pool’s three feet of water. The pool was not in service and was covered when the horse strayed over the pool cover and fell in at 12:50 p.m..

The animal was one of four horses that had broken free that morning from their pasture at Fred and Debbie Ann Newburg’s neighboring home, police said. The four horses were in the McKenzie yard for most of the morning as attempts to locate and return the animals came up empty.

Then came the call the horse had taken an unplanned dip.

While fire personnel and workers from Dan’s Towing led the efforts to determine how to free the horse, Dr. Kirsten Frederickson of Sunrise Equine monitored the medical condition of the mare, believed to weigh in the area of 1000 pounds.

firefighters and police study the situation with the help of veterinarian Kirsten Frederickson of Sunrise Equine Veterinarian Services and Dan’s Towing that provided lift straps. (Photo by Cliff Buchan)

As the plan was hatched to free the horse, the animal was kept calm and given a light spray of hose water to stay cool. Firefighters also pumped most of the three feet of water from the pool.

Firefighters Dan Mike and Pat Parenteau remained at the side of the horse, which remained calm during the ordeal, said Fire Chief Gary Sigfrinius. The pool had steps, but the first level was too high for the horse to navigate, the chief said.

With plan in hand, the rescue team positioned the fire department’s aerial ladder truck at the side of the pool and used straps from Dan’s Towing to create a swing. Once the straps were in place under the animal’s belly and the horse was sedated by Dr. Frederickson, the animal was lifted to safety.

The vet said the animal appeared to be OK and unharmed from its near three-hour stay in the pool. The three other horses were tied to a nearby tree during the ordeal.

Unusual Call

Sigfrinius said the department has been called in the past to help pull horses from swamps or ditches, but never a swimming pool.

“Never in 53 years,” said veteran firefighter Joe Houle who was on scene last week and asked if he’s ever helped rescue a horse under circumstances during his many years on the fire department.

Harold Bothman had another view of the rescue. A former firefighter, Bothman has worked in the towing business for more than 50 years and was on scene as a driver for his son’s towing business, Dan’s Towing.

“I’ve pulled five or six [horses] from pools,” Harold Bothman said. “Even a deer.”

Bothman provided the lift straps that were used to form the swing.

By late in the day, the four horses were back home. A fifth horse owned by the Newburg, a pony, stayed behind and did not follow the four larger horses.

Debbie Newburg said later she was relieved the mare was not hurt during her ordeal in the pool. The quarterhorse named Gemistone is her usual mount.

She described the mare as a follower and a calm horse by nature, which may have been a bonus during her three hours in the McKenzie swimming pool.