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Boalsburg Fire Company Pushed to Limits by Daring Horse Rescure

by on January 28, 2015 10:45 AM

On Tuesday morning, Boalsburg Fire Company Chief Van Winter got a call that tested the strength and ingenuity of his crew. 

Shortly before 7:20 a.m., a call came in for a specialized rescue on  Russel Road in Harris Township. Winter says this is a broad category that can entail anything from a cat in a tree to a child with a leg stuck in a bicycle, but Tuesday’s rescue was a little more unexpected. 

Two horses had stepped onto the cover of a swimming pool behind their owner’s home, breaking through and stranding themselves in the icy cold water of the pool’s deep end.

“This is something that you’d see in a viral video or on TV, but you don’t expect to see something like that in your own life,” Winter says. “You train for accidents and you train for fires, but this is really something that was beyond the scope of what you normally train for." 

About twelve minutes after the call came in, Winter was on scene, where his heart was stirred by the sight of the two animals thrashing in the freezing water. As an animal lover, he says he couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of empathy for the two unfortunate creatures.

And so began a race against the clock: the Centre County Animal response team was on its way with specialized equipment and Ed Maxwell of Maxwell Trucking was bringing a backhoe to help pull the horses out – but the animals were quickly tiring out and moving closer to hypothermia.

Luckily, Winter says the horses had torn through the pool liner, allowing the water to drain out and giving the horses the chance to move into the shallow end. 

But the pool had no steps for the horses to climb out, and they were now lying in exhaustion on the pool bottom. Winter wasn’t sure they had time to wait; they had to act right then and there.

“We got everyone together to bring ideas and suggestions for what to do,” Winter says. “In a situation like that, you have to improvise and use what’s available to you.”

They took inventory of what they had around them: wooden pallets, plywood planks, screws. Not exactly the ideal set of materials, but members of the fire company, the animal rescue team and State College police were able to devise a plan. 

They constructed a set of makeshift stairs, which they used to give the two horses a way out of the pool. The smaller of the two horses, a young animal, was able to climb out with relative ease. The second horse, the larger and heavier of the two, proved more challenging, breaking through the steps before it could climb to safety.

But they kept at it, rebuilding and fortifying the steps until they could support the horse’s weight. After about an hour of quick thinking and hard work, both animals were back in their owner's arms. Though both horses suffered some minor cuts from the ice and were near a hypothermic state, Winter says they’re well on their way to recovery.

“It was a very unfortunate incident, but because we just kept working together through the problem we were able to make a positive outcome,” Winter says. “It looks like the horses are going to make it through and be fully healthy again soon.”


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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