Wrenshall Fire rescues horse from sinkholeMembers of the Wrenshall Fire and Rescue Squad could hardly believe their eyes when they responded to a call along the Munger Bike Trail on Tuesday, May 7. They had received an emergency page from Dispatch around 6:45 p.m. saying a horse had fallen into a sinkhole along an unpaved stretch of the trail.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Members of the Wrenshall Fire and Rescue Squad could hardly believe their eyes when they responded to a call along the Munger Bike Trail on Tuesday, May 7. They had received an emergency page from Dispatch around 6:45 p.m. saying a horse had fallen into a sinkhole along an unpaved stretch of the trail.
Melissa Aurand of Eagen had been riding a horse named Stormy, belonging to her husband’s step-dad, Hank Dubrent, along the trail, with her husband Zach riding ahead of her.
“All of a sudden, Stormy started to sort of topple sideways,” related Melissa. “I thought maybe she had passed out or something. I was tossed off just as her back legs began to slip into the ground.”
Alert to what was happening, Zach jumped off his horse and ran back to where Melissa was checking to see if the wrist she had landed on was injured.
“The horse was slowly sinking into the ground, like she was in quick sand,” said Melissa.
Zach grabbed the horse by the halter and tried to tow her out with his horse, but to no avail. Stormy went from sliding slowly into the hole to disappearing completely out of sight.
Through it all, Melissa said, Stormy remained calm.
“She’s the most amazing horse ever!” she said.
Zach jumped down into the gaping hole to check on the horse and keep her steady until help arrived. Melissa said her cell phone was in her saddle pack, so Zach had to dig it out and toss it up to her so she could call 911.
“The girl on the phone really calmed me down,” said Melissa. “I told her I needed help because my horse was stuck in the ground, and she had to make me stop and take a deep breath before she could actually catch on to what I was talking about!”
When seven responders from Wrenshall Fire and Rescue pulled up, they walked up to Melissa and said casually, “How’s it going?” It was then that Zach stuck his cowboy hat up through the hole and started waving it at them.
“The man was about six feet tall, and when we got there all we could see was the top of his cowboy hat,” said Peter Laveau, first assistant Wrenshall Fire Chief. “The hole must have been nine or 10 feet deep.”
Laveau said the sinkhole was big enough for the horse and man to stand up in.
A Carlton County Sheriff’s deputy who had also responded to the call set to work trying to track down a backhoe to help dig the horse out. In the meantime, one of Wrenshall squad members asked the man in the hole what kind of ramp the horse would need to climb out of the hole.
“He told us he thought something with a 45-degree angle would be enough for the horse to get out,” said Laveau.
The rescue squad had shovels in their rig, so they shoveled for about 10 minutes to reposition the dirt around the edges of the sinkhole into a slope. The man in the hole hefted himself out, and with a bit of encouragement, the horse followed suit.
Laveau said though the horse was “somewhat sweaty and shook up,” with a small cut on its shoulder, it seemed to be all right.
“She looked pretty good for what she had gone through,” he summed up.
Laveau said the sinkhole was likely caused after 12 inches of rain fell in the area during last June’s flooding. He said there was a culvert under the trail that may have either gotten a hole ripped in it or a washout built up around it, with the silt creating a temporary sod roof over it. The frost during the winter no doubt compromised that portion of the trail still further and the weight of the horse caused it to cave in.
Dubrent arrived with the horse trailer to give Stormy a ride back to the barn, where she happily rejoined her foal as if nothing had ever happened.
“I could not have asked for a happier ending!” said Melissa.