Despite the rescue of the 7-year-old trail horse, the animal was euthanized on Monday, due to the severity of his injuries.
Issaquah resident Jenny Bloor did all she could to save her horse, Huckleberry. In the end, the odds were too stacked against them.
Last Sunday night was a chilly one in Central Washington, where Bloor slept beside her injured horse at the bottom of a ravine where it had slipped and fallen a day earlier.
Huckleberry, a 7-year-old Appaloosa trail horse, was “banged up,” with exposed, torn tendons in his back left foot and lacerations all along the leg, after falling down a 100-foot embankment near Easton in Kittitas County, Bloor said in a phone interview on Monday. Complicating the situation, the ravine was surrounded by a rocky embankment, making it too difficult to rescue the horse with conventional methods.
The Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART), which says it’s the state’s only group dedicated to the technical rescue of animals, was called in to help. It determined that Bloor’s options were limited to either putting Huckleberry to sleep or airlifting him with a helicopter and a sling designed for large-animal rescue, known as an Anderson Sling.
“We train extensively for large and small animal rescue,” said Michaela Eaves, a spokeswoman for the rescue organization. WASART has “a lot of experience with extractions for different situations, but felt this was beyond our skill set to safely accomplish. The sling is just a piece of equipment in a difficult procedure.”
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Bloor called Hillsboro Aviation, a helicopter and airplane service based in Oregon, which agreed to take the job. On the ground, the horse was sedated before being secured and lifted into the air on an Anderson Sling. The helicopter flew Huckleberry on Monday to Easton’s air strip 3 miles away.
From start to finish, the horse had around five to 10 minutes of air time, after 18 hours of safety and operational preparation, according to Hillsboro Aviation.
“Large-animal rescues require detailed coordination between flight operations, veterinarians and ground crew,” Rekha Lyons, spokeswoman for the flight-services company, said. “We descended into the ravine and lifted Huckleberry out, slow and steady. We are proud to have been part of the rescue.”
Despite the rescue, Huckleberry was euthanized on Monday due to the severity of his injuries.
“The lead surgeon thought he had a less than 1-percent chance of ever recovering to even limited capacity,” Bloor said in a text message.