WINSLOW — Winslow and Waterville firefighters late Monday afternoon rescued a horse that had fallen through the ice of Pattee’s Pond and had been in the water up to its head at least two hours.

Firefighters and Winslow police rushed to the scene off North Pond Road where the closest they could get to the horse by vehicle was at the end of Catfish Corner Road off North Pond Road, about 300 yards from where the animal was in trouble.

“When we approached the horse, about the only thing you could see was part of the horse’s neck and head,” Winslow fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez said. Ronnie Rodriguez photo

“We didn’t have much time to get the horse out,” Winslow fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez said later Monday. “It would have succumbed if he was in there any longer.”

As the skies were darkening at 4:23 p.m. and snow fell on Catfish Corner Road, firefighters in dry suits hopped on the back of all-terrain vehicles, as well as a snowmobile driven by an off-duty firefighter, and rode across the snow-capped ice to the horse. Rodriguez and Waterville fire Chief Shawn Esler also were taken to the scene via snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle.

“When we approached the horse, about the only thing you could see was part of the horse’s neck and head,” Rodriguez recalled.

Firefighters drove three metal stakes through the ice to serve as an anchor system, and then firefighters in dry suits got into the water and wrapped webbing around the horse’s front legs, he said. They used rescue rope to haul the horse up onto the ice. The horse rolled over on its side and stood up on all four legs by itself, according to Rodriguez. He was then led, walking, across the ice, back to where vehicles had parked on Catfish Corner Road.

The Waterville Regional Communications center got the call of the horse in the water at 3:15 p.m. and it was out of the water before 5 p.m. Apparently, the animal went in not far from a snowmobile trail, Rodriguez said.

“It is believed that the horse got out earlier in the day and was running wild,” he said.

During rescue operations, Rodriguez said, he had to take into consideration the safety of firefighters as well as that of the horse.

Several people in the community helped in various ways, he said. A veterinarian came to the scene, as did a person with a horse trailer.

“From calling the veterinarian to getting the trailer and dry blankets and hay — those were all concerns from a command standpoint,” Rodriguez said, adding that he and others were worried the horse could become hypothermic and its legs could fall asleep.

With teamwork, he said, the horse was able to be rescued. The veterinarian reported the horse would be OK, he said.

“That’s what Maine people do — they provide help to their neighbors,” he said.

Rodriguez was not sure how much the horse, which is brown, weighs.

“This horse was no small horse,” he said. “Its back was over my head and I’m 5′ 8″.”

He did not immediately know the names of the horse’s owner, the veterinarian who responded or the person who brought the horse trailer to help.

“It was a great cooperative effort from mutual aid partners once again, and it’s the way Mainers do it — we come together,” he said.

Asked if the horse was cooperative, Rodriguez said any large animal under duress can be unpredictable. But this horse seemed to understand firefighters were there to help and that it had better cooperate.

“Once we got him out, he just walked right along,” Rodriguez said. “He realized, these guys got me out of there, they know what they’re doing, I’d better do what they say.”

He described the rescue effort as “impressive.”

“Firefighting has evolved to the point where we’re asked to do so much,” he said. “You never know what a day’s going to bring.”

North Pond Road is off China Road. Rodriguez said the ice was 4 or 5 inches thick where the horse went into the water. He was not sure what the water temperature was.

“It’s 21 degrees right now,” Rodriguez of the air temperature said after the rescue. “I can only imagine how cold that water was.”

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