WALKESKA, Ga. -- A magnificent, stately, eight-year-old Percheron named Becca is expected to heal after being trapped for hours underneath a foot-bridge in the woods near her stables.
And her owner is thanking the Cherokee County Fire Department, Cherokee Animal Control, the Salacoa Volunteer Fire Department, and the amazing City of Milton Large Animal Rescue Team for saving Becca's life.
Becca had somehow fallen underneath the foot-bridge early Tuesday and was pinned on the ground, trapped on her side.
But the rescue team -- which has been in existence for four years, and which uses special training and equipment to pull even the biggest horses up and out of trouble, safely -- was able to bring Becca back up on four legs.
Becca weighs more than a ton.
"At the point this horse was at, it had probably struggled for some time underneath the bridge, so the horse was exhausted," said Battalion Chief Bill Bourn of the Milton Fire Department's Large Animal Rescue Team. "Once it kind of got its legs under it a little bit and was able to stand for a little, it became quite stable."
"Everybody pulled together greatly, and I really appreciate it, to all the guys, they worked hard," said Becca's thankful owner, Denise Polydor. "With time, I'm sure she's going to be 100 percent."
The veterinarian told Polydor that Becca may have fractured her hip, but should be OK.
The City of Milton's Large Animal Rescue Team has responded to 80 emergency calls in the north metro Atlanta area since the team formed in August 2008. That's an average of one to two rescues a month.
11Alive's Jon Shirek talked with Btln. Chief Bourn and with Denise Polydor Tuesday evening.
Battalion Chief Bill Bourn:
It was a large horse that had walked out onto a foot bridge and had fell through the foot bridge and was trapped underneath it at that point, and the rear end of the horse was kind of underneath the foot bridge. The best we could tell was the horse probably went out onto the foot bridge to eat some hay, and the foot bridge gave way and the horse fell into a dry creek bed, and the rear end of the horse was lodged underneath the bridge, and we're not sure how long it had been there, but probably several hours, at least.
The horse had actually been sedated, given a mild sedative to calm her down, by the veterinarian who was on the scene. She did have some obvious injuries to her hind quarters and to her head area, but nothing that appeared to be life threatening.
The training that we've gone through teaches us how to safely get around the horses, how to stay out of, basically, the kick zone, how to deal with them -- even though they may be sedated, they're still capable of hurting you.
Actually what we were able to do was to put some straps on the horse and to just basically slide it out from under the bridge with the use of a tractor that was on the scene... The horse owner did have a tractor on the scene.
Basically we just had to incorporate a lot of the training that we have gone and received. We have been on similar calls to this, but this horse, it was in an emergency situation, and we did have to use some of the straps and stuff to get it out.
At the point this horse was at, it had probably struggled for some time underneath the bridge, so the horse was exhausted. However the fight or flight response is still there for the horse. That's one of the reasons we will have a veterinarian come out to the scene... If they deem it necessary, the veterinarian will sedate the horse based on its medical condition at the time.
Once we got the horse out and got it onto stable ground, we basically just let the horse kind of get up on its own. And it took it a couple of tries to get up. The first time it did fall back down, but once it kind of got its legs under it a little bit and was able to stand for a little, it became quite stable.
Not all of the horse rescues we go out on have a favorable outcome... It does look positive for this horse.
Not long after the City of Milton was created in 2007, we actually had somebody come into the station one time and ask us how we would deal with an overturned trailer with horses in it. And we didn't have a good answer for him. So we began to research it and find out where we could find training, and we were able to locate a couple of people that do this type of training. And we have sent 16 of our personnel to receive the training. All of our equipment's been purchased with donations, and we've just been met with an overwhelming response from the equestrian community.
We've gone on 80 calls in four years, since August 2008. It's exceeded our expectations of what we thought we'd get. We knew there was a need for it, but we weren't sure how often we'd be utilized, and it's become quite frequent, as a matter of fact.
Becca's Owner, Denise Polydor:
It was when we were bringing the horses in for breakfast, Becca's usually the first one in, she never misses a meal. And I knew something was terribly wrong when she wasn't at the gate.
We found her down in the creek, belly up, she was kind of twisted, it's probably two feet deep, and it looks like she went to cross it and she slipped and got wedged underneath the bridge. There's an old bridge back there that we had covered up with debris and stuff to keep the horses away from it, but she was underneath it, and I tried to free her myself. I crawled underneath the bridge and tried to get her legs up out of there. I had to call 911 for help.
Everybody pulled together greatly, and I really appreciate it to all the guys, they worked so hard to save Becca.
My neighbor, she went on vacation this weekend and lent us her tractor, and without the tractor we would have never been able to pull her out.
We were hand-watering her, trying to get her to drink some water, she wasn't moving a lot. She was terrified, I was terrified. She's one of my prize horses. I love this horse.
(Polydor operates an equine rescue, called Iron Gait Percherons Equine Rescue, at her stables just north of Waleska, and she has found homes for 43 horses since last year.)
Right now we have 56 rescue horses... I do it for the love of the animal. I dedicated the rest of my life to rescuing horses. They brought me so much joy in my life. My personal horses, I have three personal horses, and when I'd fallen on hard times, they brought me a piece of sanity. And my thank you is I want to save as many as I can.
And Becca, she's bruised up. Possibly a hip injury. The vet was saying to keep an eye on it. It could possibly be fractured. But he highly doubted it with the way she was walking. So with time, I'm sure she's going to be 100 percent.
Denise Polydor is hosting an open house at her stables on Saturday, August 11. Coincidentally, the City of Milton's Large Animal Rescue Team had already scheduled a demonstration at the stables during the open house.
For more information: Iron Gait Percherons Equine Rescue