Human InterestThe Putnam Examiner

Putnam Rescue Workers Help Save Horse in Swamp

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Specially trained Putnam County personnel joined forces with some Westchester counterparts last week to rescue a 1,400-pound horse that was stuck in a swamp.

On Jan. 17 at about 6 p.m., the newly formed Putnam County Technical Rescue Team and the Patterson Fire Department were summoned to assist the Croton Falls Fire Department and the Westchester County Technical Rescue Team on a call for a horse that needed help on Hardscrabble Rd. in North Salem.

The 11-year-old horse, named Niko, became spooked while being ridden around vineyard, and took off crashing through the woods, losing his rider along the way. After riding alone for almost a mile, Niko was mired in mud and fell over, unable to stand up by itself. The initial location of the horse was unknown. The Westchester County Police Aviation was called for assistance, as well as the Yorktown Fire Department.

“This was a really wet swamp with boot sucking mud,” said Putnam Technical Rescue Team Commander Joey Nickischer. “Rescuers were falling over as their feet got stuck and had to rely on each other to pull themselves free.”

The Putnam County Technical Rescue Team was requested to deploy two special purpose UTV 4×4 vehicles to the scene, as well as a light tower trailer. The Patterson Fire Department responded with their Heavy Rescue, 22-6-1, and personnel specifically experienced in the area of horse rescues.

The rescue plan involved “building” a roadway of about 20 plywood sheets between dry ground and the horse, and then digging Niko out as much as possible.

“We had an excavator on site ready to assist,” said Herb Doerr of the Westchester County Technical Rescue Team, “but it couldn’t get as close as we’d like because the mud was too deep.”

A local veterinarian administered anesthesia to the horse to calm the animal down. Ropes and straps were then wrapped under Niko to help free him from his predicament. It took more than 25 individuals to pull Niko out of the mud, sliding the horse onto a makeshift sled. The sled could then glide over the improvised roadway onto more solid ground, where Niko was finally able to safely stand up.

The more than four-hour operation concluded with Niko able to walk onto a trailer, where it was transported to a veterinary clinic for evaluation.

“The ingenuity displayed by our Putnam County Technical Rescue Squad is something to be admired and I cannot be more proud of them for their success in their first call alongside their counterparts in Westchester,” said Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne.

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