Area firefighters save injured, upside-down horse

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By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal


TUPELO – Tupelo firefighters with homeland security training and other emergency professionals this week helped save the life of a bleeding horse wedged upside down in a Guntown barn.
In what horse owner Jane Farmer described as a “freak accident,” Willow stumbled and smashed her head earlier this week on glass from a window stored in an old dairy barn on the woman’s property. The horse then fell on her back, stuck between a concrete trough and the inside of a wall of the barn.
“She was in extreme pain,” Farmer said. “She had more than 20 cuts on her from falling and hitting the glass and concrete.”
At work during Willow’s fall, Farmer said she learned about the horse’s predicament when alerted by a farrier who had come to trim her hooves on Wednesday. Weighing about 1,000 pounds, the animal could have died if she remained trapped in the awkward position for too long.
Risk of death
“Because of their body weight, horses risk death if they’re on their side or upside down for a long period of time,” said Jacob Cunningham, a veterinarian who helped during the accident. “For them, it’s worse because that much weight can cause muscle damage and later on can cause kidney failure.”
Dr. Cunningham and firefighters from Cedar Hill and Guntown worked for hours to free the horse. Officials with the city of Guntown even sent a small backhoe to help. Continuing to struggle with the situation without success, they called Tupelo’s Fire Department for help.
With nine firefighters having large-animal rescue training, TFD Battalion Chief Scott Morgan said the expertise came with membership of part of the state Homeland Security Response Team. He said he and other firefighters learned to use equipment used for structure collapse rescues and other fire scenarios to help rescue horses and large animals.
Special equipment
With the help of the small excavator, the firefighters used slings and straps to delicately remove the horse from the grim situation. In all, it took four hours to remove Willow from the tight position and another hour to help her stand.
Days later, Dr. Cunningham said the horse likely will take six weeks to recover but has a “good prognosis.”
Farmer said she’s thankful for all of the help she received to free the horse.
“They knew what to do and how to handle it,” she said. “If it hadn’t been for them, (Willow) wouldn’t be here today.”
robbie.ward@journalinc.com