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Dramatic horse rescue in rising flood water

Friday, 10 June, 2016

PoppyToday saw the dramatic rescue of Poppy, a two year old horse who found herself stranded down a steep bank alongside rapidly rising flood water in Otaki Gorge.

This incredible multi-agency operation, including the SPCA’s National Rescue Unit, Massey University’s Veterinary Emergency Response Team, Palmerston North Rescue Emergency Support Team, Wellington Helicopters, local animal control and the Police, saw the horse successfully slung by helicopter to safety on dry land with only seconds to spare.

The stranded horse was spotted early on Friday morning and a call was put in to the SPCA’s National Rescue Unit at 8.30am. SPCA Wellington hosts the national specialist team and its Chief Executive Steve Glassey says the decision to deploy the team along with mutual aid partners was given urgency as the river was rapidly rising due to flash flooding.

Upon arrival, an equine veterinarian and animal rescue technicians were quickly deployed to assess, stabilise and sedate the horse while other rescuers prepared the helicopter cable at a landing site approximately a kilometre downstream.

“It doesn’t get more critical or hazardous than this,” says Glassey. “Large animals, flood water and helicopters are a complicated mix at the best of times, but this rescue was down to the wire with the horse beginning to become submerged due to the rapidly rising river just as the cable was flown into position to safely evacuate Poppy to the landing site.”

The SPCA Animal Rescue Unit was founded by Glassey 20 years ago as the first team of its kind in the southern hemisphere and recently became a national resource after funding from SPCA New Zealand. All three rescue teams involved in today’s operation have been trained by Rescue 3 International to global standards in Swiftwater and Technical Animal Rescue.

The SPCA wishes to thank everyone involved and their thoughts are with Poppy and her family tonight as she recovers.