Digger the horse dies after rescue from 6 days trapped in hole

A horse that survived almost a week stuck in a large hole on an Alberta farm before being rescued has died.

'We take comfort in that he did not die there,' family says

Digger died early Sunday, just over a day after his owners found him nearly submerged in a large hole. (Facebook/Kristiana Klause)

A horse that survived almost a week stuck in a large hole on an Alberta farm before being rescued has died. 

Digger was found Friday in a muddy hole on a farm just outside Abee, Alta., about 100 kilometres north of Edmonton. It took the efforts of around 20 people to rescue the 17-year-old palomino horse from the hole, where he was stuck for six days and five nights.

Digger, whose registered name was Sir William Barr, died early Sunday morning, his owners confirmed.

"We honestly don't know what happened. He took a turn last night and was distressed, finally collapsed at 2 a.m. and passed away in my mom, dad's and sister's arms in my mom's backyard in Waskatenau, Alta.," Kristiana Klause told CBC News in a Facebook message Sunday.

The family believes Digger died of a stroke.

Digger is comforted shortly after his rescue. (Kristiana Klause)

"It's a miracle he survived as long as he did down there and we take comfort in that he did not die there," Klause said.

"Everyone involved is heartbroken."

'A very hard weekend for us'

Klause said her mother spent at least 50 hours since Monday driving around searching for Digger, a horse she'd raised since he was three months old. 

He was rescued from the hole, which the owners of the horse called a sewage hole, with the help of a harness and a backhoe. He emerged hungry, thirsty and weak, but had no obvious injuries.

He lay on the ground and slept as the family washed and blanketed him, and a veterinarian gave him 16 litres of intravenous fluids and a few Timbits before he could stand. 

The family wants to share the importance of constantly searching property in case something like this happens. Digger was found about 100 metres from a house, and a child or adult could have easily ended up in the same situation, Klause said.

The hole was filled in immediately after Digger's rescue. The property owner said the hole was not a sewage hole, but speculates it was either an abandoned root cellar or well created before the 1950s. 

The family set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the veterinary costs shortly after the horse's rescue. They say it will remain open for now as they look to pay the rescue bills and the cost of removing his body.

Klause said the horse will be remembered as a gentle and beloved member of their family. 

"It's a very hard weekend for us," Klause said. "It's been an ordeal for my parents."

Digger was raised by the Klause family since he was three months old. (Kristiana Klause)