Horse rescued from icy mud hole in central Alberta expected to recover

A horse rescued Monday from an icy mud hole is recovering, thanks to volunteers who pulled together to save the animal.

Horse owner 'beyond grateful' to volunteers who helped with rescue

Fysik, an 11-year-old horse, was rescued from an icy mud hole on Adorado Nino Horse Rescue and Sanctuary on Monday. (Submitted by Tracy Benkendorf)

A horse rescued Monday from an icy mud hole is recovering thanks to volunteers who pulled together to save the animal.

"I just can't quite relax from it all and I'm still worried about him," said the horse's owner, Tracy Benkendorf, who operates Adorado Nino Horse Rescue and Sanctuary near Leduc, Alta.

"I'm just absolutely beyond grateful for these people that came together in such an incredible, amazing way." 

On Monday, Benkendorf spotted Fysik, an 11-year-old retired jumping horse, sunk up to his neck in freezing, muddy water. 

"He was shivering and I just knew when I saw him that there was no way I was going to be able to get him out of that myself," she said. 

She called 911, and also posted a picture of the horse on Facebook, explaining what had happened in case someone might see it and have a way to help.

Firefighters, and later RCMP arrived, as did neighbours, her veterinarian and some other people she didn't even know. For a while it seemed like the rescue wouldn't be possible.

A local towing company and neighbours banded together to rescue Fysik, a large horse, from where he was stuck in an icy mud hole on his owner's property near Leduc. (Submitted by Tracy Benkendorf)

Two tractors got stuck on their way to try a rescue, but eventually it was Vintage Towing from nearby Nisku that saved the day. Using a winch with straps wrapped around the horse's body, they were able to lift the horse out of the hole.

"It's super rare. That was our first horse," said Justin Birch, co-owner of Vintage Towing, who responded to the scene with two other employees and two trucks.

Birch said he knew it was a time-sensitive scene, getting the animal out before hypothermia set in. He said the community is important to his company, and that they won't charge for the work they did on the rescue. 

"You don't want to see a horse die if it doesn't have to," he said.

The veterinarian, Dr. Angel Roberts, administered IV fluids, and the group tried to warm the horse with hotel blankets. Using a tilt trailer, they moved the horse to Benkendorf's warm garage because Fysik  is so large, it would have been a challenge to get him into a stall in the barn.

 Eventually Fysik's body temperature rose to a safe level. They got the horse standing after about three hours, but then he lost his footing and fell. They managed to get him up again, and he's been standing, wrapped in blankets, since.

Tracy Benkendorf comforts her horse, Fysik, after he was rescued from an icy mud hole by a crew of local volunteers on Monday. (Submitted by Tracy Benkendorf)
Benkendorf said the way everyone pitched in was amazing. People brought heaters, someone brought a pizza, and she remembers seeing one of the towing company employees holding the IV fluid bag.

"I'm so astounded by it, just how many people took the time out of their day to do that," she said.

The ordeal has been hard on Benkendorf. She got her feet wet during the rescue and said she has frostbite, and was up until around 5 a.m. checking on Fysik to make sure he was still standing.

"It turned what could have been a horrible tragedy into something that so far has been the complete opposite because it revealed so much about the character of these people," she said.

Benkendorf rescued Fysik about five years ago when a medical condition sidelined him from his jumping career. She described the big horse as kind and gentle.

She's not confident he's out of the woods, but a visit from the vet on Tuesday afternoon confirmed things are looking up for Fysik. He still has some swelling on the legs and soft tissue damage, but he is expected to make a good recovery in eight to 10 weeks.

Veterinarian Angel Roberts treated Fysik Monday night. (Submitted by Tracy Benkendorf)

-with files from Andrew Jeffrey