More than a dozen bystanders risked their own lives to pull a mustang horse to safety after the 1,200-pound animal fell through ice on a Wisconsin lake.
The horse reportedly escaped from his home barn through a broken fence Saturday while his owners were out Christmas shopping before he galloped onto the ice at Wood Lake and fell through about 200 yards off the shore.
When the stranded horse was found Sunday about 20 feet deep in the water, a group of people sprang into action amid below freezing temperatures, according to CBS Minnesota.
“We were able to see him bobbing and struggling,” local resident in the village of Grantsburg DJ Ryan told the outlet.
“It was just calling a bunch of mutual friends and horse people around the area and I knew someone was going to know someone who had a warm safe place we could house if it was successful.”
Because of warmer temps the previous weeks, heavy equipment to help in the rescue mission was ruled out. The lake only had 3-4 inches of ice, which barely hits the mark for walking or skating on ice, according to CBS Minnesota.
The group of rescuers raced to grab ropes, nylon straps and inner tubes as the horse labored to breathe and shivered uncontrollably, tow truck driver Karl Anderson told the outlet.
“We knew we were very short on time,” he said. “I was with the horse and I could see the horse deteriorating.”
The group created a rope and pulley system and used a life jacket under the horse’s belly and a stick for buoyancy, according to Fox 9.
About four hours after the start of their rescue, the team of Good Samaritans reportedly pulled the horse out of the ice and dragged its body close to shore before the mustang was able to walk on its own the rest of the way.
“He did a thrash kick toward the end when we thought he was near giving up, and got himself kind of halfway up,” Ryan explained to Fox 9. “We yelled ‘1-2-3! We need to go’ and that’s when we got him on the ice.
“We kept him down at first, because if he stood up potentially all three of us were going in the water with him.”
The horse was loaded up to a trailer and brought to a heated barn. He was then brought to a veterinary clinic and continues to improve from hypothermia, CBS Minnesota reported.
Fox 9 reported the horse has been returned to his owner.