March 4, 2010

Mare safely rescued after breaking through bridge


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Lewiston Sun Journal Courtesy photo Leanne Shields, right, and her father, Leon Cantin, calm her mare Aquila as Dixfield and Canton firefighters decide how to free her. The 1,500-pound horse fell through the boards of a small bridge that crosses a creek in Dixfield.

Sun Journal

DIXFIELD — A 14-year-old Arabian mare appeared to be doing well after a nearly two-hour effort to get the horse dislodged from a wooden bridge off Hall Hill Road on Tuesday.

It began when Leanne Shields of Dixfield went for a ride on her horse, named Aquila, around 2 p.m. on a trail no longer used by the Poodunck Snowmobile Club.

Minutes into the ride, as the light-gray mare was crossing a small wooden bridge that spans a tiny creek, the horse became stuck when its hind legs broke through two boards and became wedged between two 4-by-4-inch beams.

Shields, who was not thrown, tried to keep her horse calm.

About a dozen members of the Dixfield Fire Co. and the Canton Fire Department responded to the call. Ninety minutes later, they finally got Aquila's legs free.

In the interim, Shields' father, Leon Cantin of Mexico, arrived with a tranquilizer to calm the frightened animal.

Firefighters maintained silence as they tried to decide how to free the horse.

''They were very considerate and had a lot of common sense,'' Shields said from her horse's stable on Oak Lane later that afternoon. ''I wish I could give each one a hug.''

Trying to cut the beams without spooking the horse was tricky. Nails had to be pulled from the rotten boards without injuring the animal.

The sound of the saw and generator were scary, but Shields and her father covered the mare's eyes and petted and reassured the horse throughout the ordeal. Every so often Aquila would rear up, but then calm down under the loving firmness of her owner.

Dixfield Fire Chief Scott Dennett said he immediately called the Canton department when he learned of the nature of the emergency because its members had recently completed a course in large-animal rescue.

Marc Blanchette and his daughter, Briann, were among the Canton firefighters who helped the Dixfield Fire Co. free the horse, producing a gentle round of applause.

Once it got up, the horse was shaking severely. Shields then walked Aquila back to her barn on Oak Lane.

Dennett said his department helped rescue a horse from a small pond on Coburn Avenue a few years ago. The horse had fallen through the ice, and although it appeared OK, the animal died a few days later.

Aquila sustained cuts and bruises to her hind legs.

The bridge and that portion of the trail were cordoned off.

Shields said she usually takes Aquila out for a ride a couple of times a week. Tuesday was the first time this year that she used the former snowmobile trail.

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