Blind horse remains stable after rescue from sinkhole
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A blind horse that was rescued after it fell into a sinkhole and was freed by Blount County firefighters and other rescuers Sunday evening remains stable at the Countryside Veterinarian Services in Louisville.
Star, a quarter horse mare owned by Jack and Jennifer Estep, of 3881 Quarry Road in Louisville, fell into the sinkhole on property next to theirs at about 4 p.m.
According to Blount County Fire Chief Doug McClanahan, the fire department received a call about the horse at about 4:30 p.m.
It was pulled from the hole about four hours later by rescue workers and four veterinarians, two from the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center and the others from Countryside Veterinary Services.
Jack Estep told The Daily Times Monday that he and his wife had just returned home from visiting Star and her condition was improving. She will remain at Countryside for at least three to four days, he said.
“I’m just grateful for the professional coordination that Chief McClanahan did to get Star rescued out of the hole,” Estep said. “Dr. (Claire) Ringger (one of the veterinarians on the scene from Countryside Veterinary Services) is doing a wonderful job with Star right now.
“She is doing OK and Dr. Ringger allowed us to take her out to pasture and walk around, which is good for her. She is really enjoying the hay we brought for her — it really lifted her spirits up. She doesn’t like the hospital food.”
McClanahan estimated about 10 Blount County firefighters were on the scene, with four trucks and the veterinarians.
“All four had done a phenomenal job, and the working together part was great,” McClanahan said Monday. “(This rescue) is a first for me, and the first that I can remember from this department.
“When we got the call that the horse was stuck in a hole, we thought we would get a Bobcat and dig an little route and walk her out. We got to the scene and the horse was in a hole that was 15 feet all the way around and 25 feet deep. It was like a bucket put out there in the ground. She was right down at the bottom of it.
“The sinkhole had been there for years,” McClanahan continued. “She had just fallen into it. She could see her shadow but she couldn’t see real well, and was legally blind. She attempted to get out a couple of times on her own, but fell back in the hole. We were concerned that she was going to hurt herself.”
McClanahan said the veterinarians provided harnesses, got a quick lesson in rappelling and went down the hole to calm Star down with medication.
“It took about four hours, which was just remarkable to do that extraction and rescue in that amount of time,” McClanahan continued. “Once the doctors got her out of the hole, they began working on her. Once the tranquilizers wore off and they got her a little more stable, she stood up on her own and was able to walk her out. They got her in the horse trailer and transported her to Countryside for observation.”
Estep, who owns four other horses with his wife besides Star, said neither of them was aware that a sinkhole existed near their property. “I found (the horses) all at the top of the hill, and everyone was accounted for except Star,” Estep said. “I hollered for Star and heard some noise, but couldn’t see her. I probably walked by Star about three or four times, but it was my wife that found her in the hole. She said you wouldn’t believe this, but there’s a hole and you can’t see it. It just blew my mind when we found it. It is a very huge hole, and we weren’t even aware of it.
“The hole goes off at an angle, but that’s where Star fell straight down,” Estep continued. “I was telling the vet, even one of the horses that could see would have fell because it was a blind area.”
‘Me too, honey’
McClanahan said everyone was ecstatic when Star was rescued alive and standing on her own.
“She was terrified, but I think the whole team that responded worked very well together,” he said. “The owners were very encouraging and very helpful throughout the rescue. It was a good, lucky day that she didn’t kill herself or break something, because it was a tremendous fall.
“Even though this was the first extrication, everything fell into place,” McClanahan continued. “This is a horse, but yes, this could be a person, too. We did it as swiftly as possible, and the tension was high. The horse took a deep breath when she was rescued, and I said, ‘Me too, honey.’”