A draft horse became stuck in a muddy bog on Tuesday, June 17, prompting a large rescue operation lasting over five hours.
The 10-year-old Percheron named Coco managed to unlatch a gate and wander into a wooded area near her pasture. The horse’s owner, Holly Miller, discovered the horse and initially tried to free Coco but eventually called for help. Woodinville Fire & Rescue crews responded and immediately requested additional resources to assist in the rescue.
Resources from Kirkland Fire Department, King County Sheriff’s Office, King County Search & Rescue and Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART) responded to the scene and took part in freeing Coco.
"Of course the biggest concern was for the horse, knowing that we were literally racing the clock to free her before she became too distressed from the ordeal," said David Weed, community services officer for Woodinville Fire & Rescue.
The veterinarian who cares for Coco was on the scene early in the rescue and monitored the horse constantly for signs of distress.
Fluids were given through an IV and mild sedation was administered to keep the horse stable while technical rescue personnel set up rope rescue rigging. Coco managed to escape the first mud pit only to get stuck again in more mud.
Rescue rigging had to be redeployed due to the new position of the horse.
Crews managed to free her from the second mud pit to what was believed to be solid ground but Coco’s front feet again sank and she was trapped a third time.
By this time, a special harness arrived on scene and was placed on the horse.
The veterinarian fully sedated the horse to prevent it from thrashing around and potentially injuring itself or rescuers.
The technical rescue group then lifted the 2,000-pound horse out of the mud utilizing ropes anchored to trees and lowered her onto a rescue sled.
Close to 30 people then pulled Coco out of the woods and into a pasture for recovery.
"The real heroes of the day were the over 40 volunteers from search & rescue and WASART, many of whom left their work to respond and assist in the rescue," Weed said. "It really was a great example of multiple agencies coming together to achieve a positive outcome."
After resting in the pasture for 45 minutes, Coco managed to rise to her feet and stand.
Although wobbly from exhaustion and the sedation, she quickly began eating and drinking.
By the next day, Coco was grazing in her pasture as if nothing had happened. "I think being a draft horse really helped the situation," Weed commented. "Although it made for a much heavier animal to lift, in the end being a draft horse that is known for endurance and hard work made it possible for her to survive the 5-hour rescue."