Laina Morrell said her daughter Hannah had taken her 18-year-old horse named Ringo to get a drink at a local lake when the horse wound up in a silt sink hole. Ringo tried to get to stable land but his efforts just pushed him deeper in the mud and farther from shore, she said. Morrell realized she would sink too if she tried to aid the animal and decided to call for help.
“We called 911 and 911 told us that they had a large animal rescue — which I didn’t even know of — in Milton,” Morrell said.
Personnel from Milton’s fire department, trained in the emergency rescue of horses and other large animals, helped pull Ringo from the lake safely.
“We would never have gotten that horse out if it had not been for them,” Morrell said. “This was not an easy rescue. The horse would have died.”
She said the water was freezing and the horse had exhausted himself in the water for nearly an hour and had turned on his side. She and her husband had to borrow a neighbor’s boat to get next to the horse and hold its head above water.
The recent incident was one of only about three or four water rescues the Milton unit has been called to, said Battalion Chief Bill Bourn with the Milton Fire Department. However, the unit has performed more than 80 rescues since its inception in August 2008.
The unit was developed because the department had no plan in place for emergency situations involving horses, and Milton and the surrounding area is known for having a large equestrian community. The unit has mutual aid agreements with surrounding North Fulton cities and with Cherokee and Forsyth counties and will respond to emergency calls from those jurisdictions. Since the large animal rescue program is a specialized service, it is funded through donations and fundraisers.
“We could not justify spending taxpayer dollars on something that was only for a select part of the community,” Bourn said.
He added the response from the community has been overwhelming. Donations have helped the department purchase much needed equipment, such as a $1,500 Becker Sling and 400-pound horse mannequin that cost around $10,000 and had to be shipped from the United Kingdom.