Two-hour rescue of horse trapped under huge fallen tree

A horse trapped under a fallen tree for more than two hours was rescued without major injuries thanks to the efforts of her vet and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service.

Ten-year-old Jager and her field companion had been turned out seconds before the huge tree fell in 50mph winds at a livery yard in Swillington Lane near Leeds on Wednesday (13 March).

The yard owner, who was moments away from also being crushed, was able to immediately call the emergency services for help.

Attending vet John Baird of Parkhill Vets in Wetherby said the bay mare was pinned under a fork of two large limbs of the tree, which had landed just in front of her withers.

“If the horse had been two inches further forward she would have had no chance of survival,” he said. “She just had her head and neck out in front of the fork in the branches. Her nose was buried in mud and had to be cleared out so she could breathe.”

The tree’s limbs were so heavy that even specialist lifting gear was unable to raise them and the branches had to be gradually lifted by elevating from underneath to free the horse.

Mr Baird said he followed the usual procedure when acting with the emergency services, where the fire and rescue team provide the specialist equipment but act under the direction of the vet, who ensures the safety of animal and personnel.

“The first thing we look at is whether it is a viable rescue, or if the horse is so injured that the only humane thing to euthanise it. In this case, we couldn’t see all her limbs but we could see three and they were moving, the horse was conscious and there were no signs of major internal haemorrhage and no obvious external injury, so it all came down to whether we could stabilise the tree,” he said.

 

“The main problem was its sheer mass — there were lots of hanging branches overhead, so we needed to clear those out of the way to provide a safe exit route, so if the horse got to her feet and started to act like a flight animal, she could take off and have a clear path. In the event, she wasn’t able to move initially.”

He said that it was eventually possible for the fire service to raise the branches by six inches, which was enough to move Jager, who had been lying on her chest, on to her side so she could be dragged to safety.

“She was very heavily sedated so we could roll her on to her side, which lost half a foot of vertical height and freed her up so she could be moved to a clear, safe space,” he explained.

“Ten minutes later she was rolled onto her other side to take the pressure off and as we were about to do that, she decided to stand up. She had the world’s worst case of pins and needles in the leg that had been stuck underneath her, as it had limited bloody supply for more than two hours, but otherwise she was OK.”

 

Mr Baird said he returned to the yard yesterday (14 March) to take bloods and check Jager, who is owned by 17-year-old college student Eve Ruddock, who competes her in showjumping and cross-country.

“I walked her out today and she was very bright, although she will have a lot of muscle damage. We’ve taken bloods as a precaution as there is the risk — as with azoturia — of it leading to kidney failure but she seems to be doing well.

“She was phenomenally unlikely to survive under a weight of tree like that — it was just luck,” he added.

Jager’s field companion also suffered a head injury when the tree fell, a cut down to the bone near his poll which involved the temporal muscle.

“He wasn’t eating last night but he is eating again this morning, so he will be fine in the long run,” Mr Baird added.

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In a tweet, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service praised the efforts of their team.

“A big shout out to our technical rescue crew who helped rescue Jager the horse in Leeds during some windy conditions this morning. Happily Jager suffered only minor injuries and is now back on her feet,” it said.

A spokesman for the service confirmed crews had been called to the yard at 8.24am, where they worked to free the mare until 11.43am.

“The specialist technical rescue unit from Cleckheaton was mobilised along with specialist technical rescue officers. This was a complicated rescue with a large tree involved and live electrical cables,” a spokesman said.

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