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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Williston, Vt.) - An appreciative horse owner in Williston, Vt. is praising the town's fire department for helping rescue her large Belgian draft horse from thick mud and chilly water. Tommy, as the animal is known, became stuck in the muck Sunday, and after several hours in a bog behind his owners’ field, was plucked to safety.
"I just knew he was in big trouble," said Millie Whitcomb, Tommy's owner. "We were almost hopeless."
Whitcomb told New England Cable News she believes Tommy went for a walk beyond the perimeter of his field, looking for fresh grass. His search took him through an electric wire and onto very soft muck that he sank into and couldn't get out of, Whitcomb said. She estimated the at least 20-year-old horse was in the mud past his belly for four hours or slightly more.
"I'm pretty sure he was scared," said Jamie Kilburn, Whitcomb's partner. "This easily could have gone the other way."
Staff from the Williston Fire Dept., aided by members of the Hinesburg Fire Dept. and Colchester Technical Rescue, which specializes in dangerous and complex rescues often involving water, were able to use an excavator and a special harness to hoist Tommy to safety. "We like a happy ending," said Ken Morton, the chief of the Williston Fire Department. "It reinforces that whatever we're presented with, we'll figure out a solution."
"It really made me get a new outlook on the men and women that we have on our rescue," said Whitcomb, who works in the office of the Williston Police Dept.
“We would have done the same for anyone,” Morton said. “This could have been a cow, or a person in a car. We don’t necessarily train to rescue a horse, but our training prepares us for situations like this.”
Whitcomb said she cannot thank the first responders enough. She told NECN they treated her beloved Belgian like a human, ensuring he didn't break a bone or even suffer a cut. "It was a miracle," she beamed.
Tommy is taking antibiotics after having gotten mud in his eyes and mouth, Whitcomb said. His back leg is also showing signs of soreness, she explained, but the horse owner said Tommy is expected to be just fine. "He's been through a lot," Whitcomb said, brushing away dust left over from the mud that had been caked onto the side of Tommy's head. "He was cold, but we got warm fluids into him with an IV."
Whitcomb said Tommy is showing more signs of being his old self again after his exhausting ordeal. NECN bets he'll be a little more careful next time he goes in search of grass.