Massachusetts Firefighters Rescue Horse

HANSON, MA (PLYMOUTH COUNTY) - Just after 11 p.m. on the evening of Tuesday, July 13, 2010, the Hanson Fire Department was called to investigate a report of a horse that had partially fallen through the floor of the barn where it was housed at 168 Brook Street.

When companies arrived they were informed that the horse, a female named "Sky," had been laying on the floor of the barn with her right rear leg through the floor since approximately 4:30 p.m. After several hours of trying to free the animal themselves, the owners decided to call the fire department.

The Hanson Fire Department immediately requested the Plymouth County Technical Rescue Team, which has specialized training and equipment for large animal rescues. Eight technicians, a veterinarian and the equipment trailers from Duxbury and Hanson were requested to the scene.

Once team members started to arrive, a plan was put in to place to hoist the animal out of the hole in the barn floor, and to use a haul system to remove the horse from the barn if she was unable to remove herself.

The Plymouth County Technical Rescue Team faced another obstacle when it was discovered that the structural stability of the barn was questionable. A large bow in the wall was noticed in the location of the injured horse.

Several members worked to shore the wall on the exterior. Other team members and Hanson firefighters worked above Sky and set up the bracing for the hoist. Others set up the haul system to help get the animal up and out of the hole, and out of the barn if needed.

Approximately an hour and a half into the incident, as heavy rains blanketed the scene, the Plymouth County Technical Rescue Team was ready to hoist Sky out of the hole in the floor. Several members manned the ropes and slowly pulled her out. Once Sky's leg was freed from the hole, members placed plywood over the opening, to prevent her from getting stuck again.

Due to the length of time that had elapsed since she got stuck, Sky laid down on the floor of her stall. Several attempts to get the large horse onto her feet were unsuccessful. Team members then decided to place the animal on the "sked," a specialized piece of equipment used to move sick and injured large animals. The sked was donated by a Marshfield resident to the Plymouth County Technical Rescue Team last year. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or MSPCA, which trained the technical rescue team on the use of this device, also responded to this incident with their large animal ambulance.

After the animal was secured to the sked, she was hauled out of the barn and on to the stable ground outside. Once released from the sked, several attempts to get Sky on her feet were unsuccessful. The animal was then placed on her uninjured side, and was able to make it to her feet, but was very unstable. While on her feet, she was able to drink some water and eat some hay. After several minutes on her feet, Sky again fell to the ground, exhausted after the long ordeal.

Once the animal fell again, the veterinarian and representative from the MSPCA determined that in the best interest of the animal, it would have to be put down. The severity of Sky's injury and her physical condition were too much for the horse to overcome.

The MSPCA will investigate the incident. The Hanson building inspector was also expected to inspect the building for its stability. Companies began clearing the scene a little after 3 a.m. the following day. No injuries were reported. The barn was also home to at least two other large horses, a sheep and a chicken.