In December 2016 a team of Florida officers arrived on the scene to help a desperate creature keep from drowning. But it was clear that they would have to be quick. After all, they had a serious challenge on their hands, as the animal weighed at least half a ton.
It all began when the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) received a call about an animal in need. So with little time to lose, they went to investigate. It turned out, though, that the officers had not exactly been trained to handle this kind of situation.
The scene? A pond on Sleepy Hill Road in Lakeland. And when the officers got there, what they witnessed no doubt shocked them. After all, there in the middle of the water was a creature almost completely submerged.
In fact, the officers could see only part of the animal above the water. Sure, they could make out a head and the very top of a back. But from just that much, they could tell that the beautiful beast was a horse. And it seemed that the 20-year-old mare had somehow become stuck in the six-foot-deep pond.
Unfortunately, the land around the water had become soft and slippery. This made it impossible for the Quarter horse to get a good enough grip to drag herself back to safety. “The surrounding area of the pond had decomposing wood [mulch] and muck making it difficult for the horse to find solid ground,” a statement from the sheriff’s office explained.
Of course, the officers knew they had to help the animal in need. However, Quarter breeds tend to be larger than other horse types, with an average weight of around 1,075 pounds. Therefore, the law enforcement officers scratched their heads as to how they were going to lift the animal out.
In fact, the team concluded that they simply didn’t have the equipment needed to rescue the frightened horse on their own. Consequently, they called the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Rescue Team and Polk County Fire Rescue Squad 591 to join them. By working together, then, the three organizations would hopefully be able to save the mare safely and efficiently.
The PCSO Mounted Search and Rescue Team volunteers and two vets also arrived on the scene. “The PCSO’s Agriculture Crimes deputies have received large animal rescue training provided by the State Agriculture Response Team,” a statement explained. “In addition to training, the PCSO Support Services Section is home to the Florida State Agricultural Response Team (SART) Region 4 Large Animal Technical Rescue trailer.”
“The SART Rescue trailer contains an array of rescue equipment to include the rope and A-Frame lifting systems, as well as personnel safety equipment, assorted ropes, webbing, carabineers, and pulleys for improvised rope systems,” the statement went on to explain. “Deputies have access to rescue glides for livestock, rescue slings/harnesses for livestock and small animals, and both a Nikopoulos loop and mud lances for mud rescues.”
So with the trailer at their disposal, the team used an A-frame and a system of ropes and pulleys to drag the horse to safety. Then the officers dried the horse and helped her back to her feet. At this point, the team estimated that the poor horse had been in the water for over two hours.
Video footage of the rescue shows the team carefully winching the horse out of the watery hole. Brilliantly, the people involved shout orders to one another to ensure that no further harm comes to the horse. And once out of the water, the horse unsuccessfully tried to scramble to her feet – until the team gave her further assistance.
Following the dramatic rescue, the officers took the equine to the safety of a barn where she could recuperate overnight. They even dried her off and gave her dry blankets to keep her warm after her watery adventure. A veterinarian also checked the horse over and thankfully found her to be in a stable condition.
It turned out that local woman Brenda Rinier and her husband owned the horse. And the couple had feared the worst when they first discovered their dear animal stuck in the pond. “Her head was out and a little bit. It looked like she had kind of given up. That was the scary part,” Rinier recalled.
In fact, Rinier first alerted the police to the mare’s plight. “I just knew we had to get help or she wasn’t gonna make it,” Rinier said. And thanks to the owner’s quick thinking, the horse, named Star, is now on the road to recovery.
Of course, Rinier was grateful to her horse’s rescuers. “It all came together because they were so, so good, and well-trained. If it wasn’t for them there’s no way that she would have ever made it,” she said.
“I just want to say thank you to each one of them. They were so sweet to me and my husband, because it was very hard to watch,” Rinier added. As a result of the rescue, the couple began draining the pond, so hopefully Star will be safe from now on.
And Rinier wasn’t the only one with high praise for the teams involved. Yes, the video documenting the rescue, which the sheriff’s office shared on its Facebook page, has proved very popular. In fact, it has received over 20,000 views alongside a whole host of kind comments.
“As a horse owner, I hope I never have a situation like this, but I’m glad I can take comfort knowing Polk county first responders are trained for these situations! Kudos to y’all! And THANK YOU,” wrote one Facebook user.
“Great job all. It makes me so proud to live in a county where animals are just as important as humans are,” another added. “You guys are AMAZING,” read one more beaming comment. “So thankful I live in Polk County! God bless and stay safe out there.”
Star’s heartwarming story shows how emergency services can help a community in ways that often people don’t consider. Yes, the quick-thinking Sheriff’s Office and its collaboration with the fire department and SART Rescue Team delivered the equine to safety with absolutely no horsing around.