Sometimes, it really does take a village.
On a frigid February day in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, draft horses Wilhelm and Gunther broke through their fence at Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm and went on a bit of an adventure. Unfortunately, the two 1,500 pounds animals ran straight onto a frozen lake that’s about the size of a football field, and that’s when the trouble really began.
With a sickening crack, the ice broke beneath their feet and the two huge animals plunged into the icy lake. Submerged in about 10 feet of water, the panicked creatures were unable to get out and the ice around them blocked them from swimming to shore. After a neighbor spotted the frightening scene and called 911, emergency personnel from several towns responded in a daring attempt to rescue the terrified horses.
“I saw two horse heads sticking up out of the ice. That was the only thing you saw,” said Blue Ridge Hook & Ladder Fire Company Chief Leon Clapper. “You’ve got to trench your way to get them back because of the weight there was no way we were going to pick them up, put them on the ice and slide them out in a boat.”
First responders immediately set to work doing just that; using a boat to dig a large trench from the shore to the hole in the ice where the horses were treading water. Like many small towns, word soon spread about the horse’s predicament and soon neighbors were flocking to the scene to offer their help.
“Some of the other neighbors were horse people so they went and got heaters, their blankets and stuff like that. It was, you know, one hell of a team effort,” said Chief Clapper.
Milton Mosier, the farm manager at Quiet Valley, said that the rescue turned out to be an emotional moment for all involved. “Most men are tough but it was very emotional when I saw them out there and just felt a little helpless,” said Milton.
The horses were close to exhausting what was left of their energy, but their intrepid human rescuers weren’t about to let this day end in tragedy. Even Quiet Valley board member and volunteer Hannah Franko admitted that onlookers feared the worst as the rescuers worked against the clock to save the animals.
“For a moment there, we thought we were just going to have to watch them slip away and have to retrieve bodies and when we realized we could do something, and get them out of there, we were gung ho just to get whatever we needed to get done to get them out of there,” Hannah said.
At long last the two horses were pulled to the shore and immediately placed under warm blankets and tended to by the caring animal lovers in their community. Of the two horses Wilhelm made out the worst, suffering some cuts that required stitches and an irritated eye. Still, with a lot of love and TLC they’re both expected to make a full recovery.
“You always wonder when you get here and you’re first on the scene and you see that, if it’s going to be a tragedy,” said Chief Clapper. “And you saw the two horses walk away. It’s a good feeling.”
Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm has been lavishing their two runaways with love and veterinary care since they returned home, and they can’t thank their community and first responders enough for coming through when they needed them most.
“We cannot begin to thank all of the first responders, rescuers, and fireman who came to the help of our horses,” they wrote on Facebook. “Without them we would be telling a very different story. Several of these amazing men and women needed medical care after helping Wilhelm and Gunther.”
The farm will be making changes to their fencing and wiring in order to prevent the horses from escaping again, but the entire town is breathing a sigh of relief now that Wilhelm and Gunther are safely munching on hay in their stalls again. Most importantly, the whole community now knows that when trouble comes around, their neighbors will show up for them with warm blankets and even warmer hearts.
Learn more about this dramatic rescue in the video below, and be sure to share!
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