Horses are proud and powerful animals, but the one you see here sinking into the swampy ground didn’t even have the energy to stand. In fact, this brave firefighter had to grip the horse’s mighty head to stop her from dropping down into the murky water and potentially drowning.
This dramatic rescue occurred on July 28, 2016. The South Metro Fire Rescue Authority of Colorado had been called in to save a horse from a decidedly dicey situation, and they tweeted their progress to a rapt virtual audience at home.
The horse in trouble was 13-year-old Cupcake, whose unnamed owner had taken the mare out for a ride that fateful Thursday across a trail in Cherry Creek State Park. Unfortunately, the two adventurers wandered too far off-route and found themselves in one of the park’s more marshy areas.
The swampy ground was deceptively treacherous, and Cupcake lost her footing in the mire and fell into a muddy hole. The ride had already taken its toll on the horse, and without any firm floor to stand on, Cupcake became trapped in knee-deep water that could easily have turned into a shallow grave.
So Cupcake’s human mommy stayed with the horse for two and a half hours while assistance was called. Finally, park rangers were able to reach their isolated location, but they couldn’t get Cupcake out on their own. Therefore, they had to call in emergency reinforcements.
The South Metro Fire Rescue (SMFR) team had arrived at the park within five minutes, but the trek to Cupcake’s location took a little longer. In fact, the service’s spokesman, Eric Hurst, said that the emergency team spent 20 minutes hoofing their gear to the waterlogged horse.
Then, after they arrived, the SMFR team reported just how difficult the environmental conditions were for a rescue. “We’re in knee-deep water and mud in a marsh,” one of them said in a video uploaded to Twitter. “As we look up to where [Cupcake] is lying, there’s not an easy way out.”
Surprisingly, the water in some places reached up to the rescuers’ waists. Indeed, a recent rainfall had flooded the area, and the closest dry ground to the operation was about 1,200 feet away.
So by the time the SMFR arrived at the scene, Cupcake was in trouble; she was out of energy and would soon be out of time. Yes, the struggle to get free from the bog had sapped her strength, and she couldn’t even hold her own head up out of the muddy water.
The horse seemed, understandably, to be terrified by this turn in events, and her owner was equally distraught. However, now that the rescue team were on the scene, things were starting to look up.
Touchingly, one member of the SMFR stooped down into the swamp to hold CupCake’s head above water for her while the rest of the firefighters made rescue plans. The result of this planning session? The firefighter’s called in the SMFR’s Technical Rescue Team.
“The Technical Rescue Team arrived and used wood to create a solid ground surface,” a Vimeo presentation revealed. With more solid footing, then, the team could better work to liberate Cupcake from her swampy entrapment.
At first, though, the team tried hauling the horse to her feet using sheer brute strength. They managed to pull her upright as well; but, frustratingly, Cupcake’s own energy reserve was running on empty. Consequently, she fell back down into the water.
A new plan was needed, and fast. In fact, the dedicated fire service team were now taking it in turns to hold the traumatized Cupcake’s head in their laps as they reconsidered their options.
Meanwhile, the team continued to share the details of the ongoing rescue with their Twitter followers. This was a pretty rare occurrence, even in today’s connected world. “We’re usually very limited in being able to share rescues,” Hurst told CNN.
He added, “The HIPPA act prevents us from sharing human rescues. This was a unique situation, because it’s an animal.” So it was that Twitter users could be almost immediately informed when the horse’s veterinarian arrived on the scene. The vet then administered much-needed steroids, IV Fluids and vitamins to the patient.
At this point, Cupcake had spent hours struggling for her life in the marshy waters. Now, though, the combined effort of these drugs, a pulley system set up by the SMFR and 30 people – including volunteers and emergency service workers – meant that Cupcake managed to stand on her own two feet. And stay stable.
“Cupcake didn’t want to give up, you could see it in her eyes,” the fire rescue team reported to CNN. Then, after a long and difficult walk back through muddy water to the main trail, the horse was finally safe and sound. Cupcake’s mom tearfully thanked her baby’s rescuers.
Miraculously, too, Cupcake had no apparent injuries, though she was monitored by her vet for a couple of days afterward. As for the SMFR? Well, it was all in a day’s work.
“We would love to see Cupcake again, but as firefighters, the last time we see someone is when we rescue them,” Hurst told CNN. Truly, this rare insight into the lives of firefighters was as touching as it was amazing.