Horse rescued from well: 'It just looked like an impossible situation'

Horse rescued from well: 'It just looked like an impossible situation'

GOSHEN, Ore. - The call didn't add up at first.

"You always hear about firefighters rescuing cats from trees, and we have done that, but never a horse in a well," Denise Wolting with the Goshen Rural Fire Protection District said of the call Tuesday to help Katie Sue, a 27-year-old draft horse.

"The chief and I went out to the site just to investigate to make sure it was a real call," Wolting said. "When we got there it was horrifying what we saw.

"There was a horse in a well and it was only a 4-feet by 4-feet opening, so her head was sticking up and one shoulder and one leg," Wolting said. "It was so frightening. She was struggling a little bit and trying to get out, and no one knew how deep the well was at that point."

Firefighters from Goshen, Eugene, Pleasant Hill, Lowell and Dexter responded, as did veterinarians from Four Hoofs Veterinary Clinic.

"That first 20 minute period was really emotional, the horse was very exhausted," Wolting told KVAL News. "We thought she had been there for at least a few hours, and one of the neighbors came later in the evening and confirmed that he had seen her at around 5:30 in the field."

And even as the rescuers arrived and went to work devising a plan to free her, Katie Sue's history likely haunted the horse.

"She had been a rescued horse that had been abused in the past, and the big thing was she did not like men - and she was suddenly surrounded by a ton of them with helmets on and talking," Wolting said. "I'm sure she was terrified not only because of her situation but because of her past.

"Once the vet got on the scene, he started giving her medication right away, and then she looked more relaxed but still tense," Wolting said. "Throughout the evening they began to put something over her face, a jacket, so she couldn't see what was happening."

Firefighters toiled as darkness fell to keep the horse calm while excavating enough of the well to hoist her out.

"It just looked like an impossible situation to me," Wolting said. "I don't know how she got in there, and I don't know why she wasn't hurt more than she was."

Then it happened: with a neighbor's backhoe and a dozen firefighters, Katie Sue was free and back on solid ground just before 10:30 p.m.

Watch raw footage of the final moments of the rescue 

"No one clapped, no one applauded, no one did anything," Wolting recalled. "They were just really focusing on her and her condition."

The diagnosis: no broken bones, just scrapes.

"She looked happy even though she was still very drugged," Wolting said.

Wolting said Katie Sue is expected to make a full recovery.

But she would need another rescue before the night was through.

Firefighters headed home around midnight, only to get a call a few hours later that Katie Sue needed their help again.

"She had gotten stuck in some mud and so we were tapped out again," Wolting said. "They put different straps around each leg, and two volunteers on each strap pulled her and rolled her around and then she was able to finally stand up."