Have you seen this dramatic video of the helicopter rescue of a horse stranded in shoulder deep snow in Idaho?!
You have to watch this video until the end.
My mouth dropped open.
I HAD TO FIND OUT MORE…
So I watched this video and was blown away… I’ve seen horses rescued by helicopter, but not an unknown horse (no one knows these domestic but abandoned horses), in avalanche country, with howling winds and a near whiteout.
An amazing feat.
I was so intrigued by these men who selflessly saved this horse, I had to find out the entire story. So, I called the man who organized the operation. His name is Robert Bruno and he founded Idaho Horse Rescue.
I spoke to Robert this morning (Thurs) and the rescue happened on Tuesday. I’m going to paraphrase our conversation. If any of the information is not exactly correct, it is because I heard it wrong, not because Robert said it incorrectly.
The Valley County Sheriff’s office had alerted Idaho Horse Rescue about 3 horses spotted on a very remote ridge in at least 4′ of snow. These horses had been seen previously and it was thought they had been alone on the ridge for at least 6 months. But now they were in trouble. The snow was deep and only getting deeper. There was no food and they couldn’t move well.
Bruno jumped into action, calling everyone he knew (Professional Snowmobile riders, Veterinarians, Ranchers, Fish and Game Wardens, Search and Rescue workers, First Responders, pilots…) to ask for help on working up the best plan.
The horses were located near McCall, Idaho – 2 hours away from Boise. Luckily, one of Bruno’s Boise snowmobile friends had just been up there and knew exactly where the horses were located. He generously offered to make the trek back out there to bring food and water to the horses. So, Bruno gave Jeff the GPS coordinates of the last known location of the horses (from the Sheriff’s plane spotter) and he was off.
Jeff picked up his local to McCall friend, Ryan Miller, to help him find the horses and feed them. Ryan knew the rancher who owned the land (Pat Morell) and he asked the rancher to continue to feed the horses so they would stay in the area. Pat agreed.
Two days later, when they went back, the men were able to rope one of the horses and walk him out via snowshoes – because this horse had walked down the mountain quite a ways. That horse is presently residing at Idaho Horse Rescue. He is skinny but doing well.
OK, so, at that time, Ryan noted that the ‘white’ horse was no longer visible. They did go back with infrared cameras in the helicopter to look for this horse, but they found nothing (Thank you, C. Carlson).
Now back to the last horse who was now stranded alone, high up, in the deep snow and foul weather.
PREPARING FOR THE HELICOPTER
Against the advice of the Sheriff and Search and Rescue teams in the area for fear of avalanche, Bruno decided to create a plan to rescue the horse as soon as the visibility was good. He did this because the local men knew the mountains and the snow really, really well and they felt the horse was in a spot that would not avalanche.
Bruno gathered a team of 6 local snowmobile drivers who knew the land and the snow, very, very well. None of them were horsemen. But, they did work construction so they understood the mechanics of a sling and hooking it to a helicopter. Bruno also recruited one horse trainer. These were Bruno’s MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.
With instructions in hand on how to tranquilize the horse, proper sling placement and helicopter attaching rules… the men were on a mission to save this unknown horse.
Once they located the horse, the men pushed him farther up the hill so that he would be less mobile in deep snow. They figured they could give him hay to distract him, then sneak up behind him and dart him with a long pole. And that is exactly what they did.
OK, now remember, these are not horse people. Not only that, they’ve never bundled a sedated horse into a sling, nor attached it to a helicopter in severe weather.
ON HYPERDRIVE – AN AMAZING RESCUE STORY
Once he was darted, one stood by his head to monitor the horse, they put a blindfold on his face, a halter and a 30′ leadrope. The team of snowmobile construction workers lifted the horse and wrapped the Liftex harness around him. They fastened it in the proper position for helicopter flight – head up, butt down. In this position, if the horse falls asleep, he will not choke himself.
BUT that wasn’t all to consider. They had logistics and timings… The sedative would last an hour. The helicopter (Salmon River Helicopter – Guy Carlson) was 30 minutes away. The copter didn’t want to be called until the horse was fully in the sling and ready. So, there was very little time to get him in the harness… But once he was sedated and settled correctly in the harness, they called the pilot – and waited. The ride for the horse to a safe landing field was only 5 minutes long. But they didn’t want him waking up before he was safely on the ground and unharnessed.
When the copter was in view, they all got into position to catch the rescue rope and attach it.
This is what you see in the video.
NOW THE DROP OFF VIDEO!
Here is a news story of the rescue. It shows the touchdown.
Bruno and his horse trainer recruit were waiting on the other end. The scary part was the landing. Would the horse be sedated or awake? This is why they had a 30′ leadline attached to him. If the horse landed awake, they could hold him with the rope so he wouldn’t run off with the copter… Yikes.
Luckily, the horse was still sedated and landed with his legs folded up underneath him. Quickly they rushed in (very quietly, no talking) to secure the horse so the helicopter pilot could release the cable via remote control. The men then unhooked the sling and let the horse be.
He stood up after about 10 minutes.
*Note: On the video, you see a lot of red colored snow. This was a bulls eye marker for the helicopter pilot.
LOADING INTO THE TRAILER
These horses are thought to be ‘rodeo stock’. So, they understand trailers but aren’t too happy with people.
Bruno gave this horse his space while quietly throwing hay into the open doors of the trailer situated in his dropoff corral.
The horse saw a place with no snow and food… and jumped right in! They shut the doors and took the very small, but very tough, black gelding back to Idaho Equine Rescue.
A very instrumental donor asked if the horse could be named after a Hailey Search and Rescue team member who lost his life recently – his service was the day this horse was rescued.
Now this courageous horse is named, “J.D.” after a very courageous man.
Good humans all the way around.
TO FOLLOW THE REHABILITATION OF THESE INCREDIBLY COURAGEOUS AND STRONG, NEWLY RESCUED RODEO STOCK HORSES, HERE ARE THE LINKS!
There are lots of videos and photos on the Idaho Equine Rescue FB page.
Also, you can donate to help with all of the expenses here on the Idaho Equine Rescue website.
GREAT JOB, EVERYONE!
OUR JANUARY 2017 BUCKET FUND: THE OLD AND FORGOTTEN HORSES of the Golden Carrot
JANUARY 2017 BUCKET FUND! In honor of Mama Tess, we are offering the MAMA TESS’ OLD AND FORGOTTEN FUND supporting the very old and forgotten horses who landed at The Golden Carrot. You can read their story here. Please help if you can. The Bucket has $915. Our goal is $2640.
Donate here! 100% Tax deductible. THANK YOU!