Harrowing horse rescue in icy pond; team effort credited with successful outcome

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While we’ve often heard of people or wildlife falling through ice, it’s a pair of horses in the Poconos that needed to be saved. Their ordeal Saturday became a real life or death struggle.

“I saw two horse heads sticking up out of the ice. That was the only thing you saw,” said Blue Ridge Hook & Ladder Fire Company Chief Leon Clapper. Photos revealed the frightening Saturday morning scene awaiting emergency responders. Two Clydesdale horses – each weighing more than 1,500 pounds – were immersed in the frigid water of Pine Grove Lake at Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm. 

Wilhelm and Gunther had broken out of their enclosure and broke through the ice into ten feet of water about a football field length from shore. Chief Clapper said, “You’ve got to trench your way to get them back because of the weight there was no way we were going to pick them up, put them on the ice and slide them out in a boat.” 

But emergency responders used a boat to cut a rescue path through the ice then secured ropes and bands around the horses to begin pulling them to shore. As word spread about the horses’ dilemma, the community responded. “Some of the other neighbors were horse people so they went and got heaters, their blankets and stuff like that. It was, you know, one hell of a team effort,” said Chief Clapper.

“Most men are tough but it was very emotional when I saw them out there and just felt a little helpless,” Miltpn Mosier, Quiet Vallery farm manager, said.

With Wilhelm and Gunther near exhaustion after about an hour in the icy water, both were finally rescued. The horses were then cloaked in warm blankets and on firm ground after their dangerous escape. Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm Marketing/Special Events Director Deborah DiPasquale said, “I haven’t met a horse that if they want to get out of somewhere they can’t find a way to do it. They’re little Houdinis.”

“You always wonder when you get here and you’re first on the scene and you see that, if it’s going to be a tragedy,” said Chief Clapper. “And you saw the two horses walk away. It’s a hell of a good feeling.”

“For a moment there, we thought we were just going to have to watch them slip away and have to retrieve bodies and when we realized we could do something, and get them out of there, we were gungho just to get whatever we needed to get done to get them out of there,” Hannah Franko, volunteer and board member of Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm said.

Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm Executive Director Katherine Muller said a horse vet administered I-V’s to them and they were to be monitored through the night to make sure they were okay.

Wilhelm is a little worse for ware. He got stitched up and has an irritated eye. But Muller says the two horses are in good health.

Mosier said they will be adding more wiring and making changes to prevent this from happening again.

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