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Horses Rescued in Grafton

Runaway Duo Became Trapped in Pool

  • After two horses had fallen into an in-ground pool on Nov. 13, 2013, Grafton, N.H., rescue personnel lead Top Notch out of the cold water. The horses had left their fenced area a half-mile away, falling through the covered pool in Grafton, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    After two horses had fallen into an in-ground pool on Nov. 13, 2013, Grafton, N.H., rescue personnel lead Top Notch out of the cold water. The horses had left their fenced area a half-mile away, falling through the covered pool in Grafton, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Michelle Sullivan hugs her horse Top Notch after it was led from a water-filled in-ground pool in Grafton, N.H., on Nov. 13, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Michelle Sullivan hugs her horse Top Notch after it was led from a water-filled in-ground pool in Grafton, N.H., on Nov. 13, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • After the horses were rescued from an in-ground pool in Grafton, N.H., Deborah Turcott, executive director of the Upper Valley Humane Society, removes the halter from Scarlet as Spencer Marvin, the shelter's animal services manager and cruelty investigator, helps to settle the horses on their Springfield, N.H., shelter on Nov. 13, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    After the horses were rescued from an in-ground pool in Grafton, N.H., Deborah Turcott, executive director of the Upper Valley Humane Society, removes the halter from Scarlet as Spencer Marvin, the shelter's animal services manager and cruelty investigator, helps to settle the horses on their Springfield, N.H., shelter on Nov. 13, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • After two horses had fallen into an in-ground pool on Nov. 13, 2013, Grafton, N.H., rescue personnel lead Top Notch out of the cold water. The horses had left their fenced area a half-mile away, falling through the covered pool in Grafton, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Michelle Sullivan hugs her horse Top Notch after it was led from a water-filled in-ground pool in Grafton, N.H., on Nov. 13, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • After the horses were rescued from an in-ground pool in Grafton, N.H., Deborah Turcott, executive director of the Upper Valley Humane Society, removes the halter from Scarlet as Spencer Marvin, the shelter's animal services manager and cruelty investigator, helps to settle the horses on their Springfield, N.H., shelter on Nov. 13, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Grafton — Two horses were recovering overnight after becoming trapped in a swimming pool full of frigid water.

When Grafton Fire Chief John Babiarz walked into the backyard of a Fowler Road home a little after noon on Wednesday, he found the horses submerged in the pool, their legs tangled in a thick tarp. The animals had wandered onto the property after escaping a nearby enclosure. Temperatures were in the high 20s.

The pool had been covered with a green tarp, and when the horses fell through, they were submerged up to the shoulder, and their legs became tangled, Babiarz said.

Using a pumper truck, firefighters were able to lower the water level in the shallow section of the pool to about a foot. However, as the water was lowered, the white Arabian named Scarlet panicked and slipped under the tarp, below the water’s surface.

“If the horse had gone under while (the pool) was still full, I don’t know what would have happened,” said Babiarz, who wore wool gloves and two layers underneath a green parka to warm up as he recounted events.

Rescue workers decided to cut the tarp, which was still wrapped around the horses’ legs.

That’s when Babiarz and a rescue worker from Canaan pulled on wet suits and entered the water to guide the horses out of the deep end of the pool and into the shallow water.

Once the tarp was untangled, Scarlet quickly climbed the pool steps to safety. Her companion, a paint named Top Notch, followed, but not without some additional coaxing.

“It’s amazing they didn’t drown because they were really hung up in the tarp,” Babiarz said.

Last night, Scarlet and Top Notch were back in their enclosure, recovering from what was believed to be hypothermia.

No one on scene knew exactly how and when the horses got themselves into the life-threatening predicament.

At about 11 a.m. Wednesday, 80-year-old Chester Gray left his Fowler Road home near the Springfield, N.H., town line. He was about to pull out of his driveway in his pick-up truck when he saw the horses run down a nearby Class VI road where their owner kept them. Gray’s home is in Grafton, but the horses and their owner, Michelle Sullivan, live across the line in Springfield, N.H., Babiarz said.

He watched as the horses ran in front of his car and across his lawn, jumped over a stone wall and galloped into a field to the west of his home. At the time, Gray said, he didn’t think much of it and planned to call Sullivan when he returned home to tell her about the horses.

However, when Gray returned to his home about an hour later, he heard distressed breathing when he stepped out of his truck. And when he got into his house and looked out a back window, he saw the two horses struggling in the pool.

Their heads were above water, but they were in the deep end and unable to escape. Gray tried to coax them to the shallow area, but they were too tangled in the tarp to escape.

“I was afraid they were going to die before I got anybody here,” Gray said.

Tuesday was Sullivan’s 50th birthday, she said, and she was at a friend’s house at the time of the accident. Police had to track her down to let her know that her horses were in danger.

Once the horses were out of the pool, Sullivan and Dotti Ernst, the Grafton Ambulance captain, wrapped them in towels and began to rub them dry.

“I’m so happy to see you out of that pool,” Ernst said in a playful voice as she rubbed Scarlet’s head with a towel.

Scarlet was shrouded in a white comforter and a white blanket, and Top Notch was wrapped in a green blanket. Top Notch had lacerations, and his back legs were visibly shaking.

“Well, you got a bath,” Sullivan said, eliciting a chuckle from Ernst as they continued to treat the animals.

“Warm water would have been better,” Ernst said.

About 10 rescue members from Grafton and Canaan were on the scene, many of them helping to rub the animals with towels. The Upper Valley Humane Society was called, and two members arrived after the horses were out of the water.

When Deborah Turcott, executive director of the Upper Valley Humane Society, arrived, she ran into the yard and asked, “Do we have a vet on site?”

Everyone shook their heads.

“Our big goal is to keep rubbing them to stay warm,” Turcott said as she broke a few carrots in half and placed them on the ground.

Turcott soon switched gears and said the horses needed to be walked so their body temperatures would rise.

Turcott and her colleague, Spencer Marvin, began to lead the horses down a nearby path, walking them a couple hundred feet and then circling them back around.

As the horses were led away, Sullivan embraced Ernst, whom she had met just an hour earlier.

“They’re out. They’re walking,” Ernst said as she rubbed Sullivan’s back. “They have care. We’re going to take care of them.”

As two ambulances and two fire trucks left the scene around 2:30 p.m., Marvin and Turcott helped walk the two horses up the Class VI road to Sullivan’s trailer. The horses were returned to their fenced enclosure, where they are kept with a llama and several sheep and chickens.

When Turcott was asked if the horses would be alright, she said, “I don’t know. We are not vets.”

Turcott and Marvin had been at a meeting in Laconia, N.H., when they got the call about the trapped horses. She said her greatest concern was hypothermia.

“Right now, I want to focus on getting their core body temperature up,” Turcott said, adding that it was important to keep the horses moving, get them dry and monitor their water and food intake.

At 8 p.m. Wednesday, Babiarz, the fire chief, said a veterinarian had been with the horses for about an hour. While he didn’t know a lot about the condition of the horses, he said they were still standing and were eating.

Sullivan said she didn’t know how the animals got out of their gate, and Grafton Police Chief Russell Poitras said his department will conduct an investigation to see if any crimes were committed, such as trespassing.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.