When Childers resident Kim Hyam went down to her paddock to feed her four horses one morning, she was alarmed when Comet was not with his mates. Alarm turned to horror when she found Comet almost fully submerged in a water well, with only his head and front legs above the muddy water. “How on earth am I going to get him out?” Kim feared. After a call to the RSPCA emergency hotline, nearby RSPCA Qld Bundaberg Inspector Penny Flaherty swung into action.
Penny found that Comet’s front legs were caught over the side of the concrete wall of the well, helping to keep him from slipping completely under the water. But as he may have been in the well for several hours, she had to get Comet out before his head dropped below the water from fatigue.
“I’d organised for the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service to be there when I arrived, and we immediately began trying to pull Comet out with straps and ropes. There was a tractor on site, but it would’ve been too powerful. We had to rely on our own muscle to avoid injuring Comet — not an easy task with such a heavy animal,” Penny said.
“What made it even more difficult was that this wasn’t your average large animal rescue in which the animal has found itself stuck in mud in a dam or creek, with a sloping bank that offers some assistance in pulling the animal out. In this case, the vertical concrete wall made pulling Comet to safety much more difficult and increased the risk of injury.”
Deciding that such a difficult rescue required expert assistance, Inspector Flaherty phoned Anthony Hatch, an expert in large animal rescues from Fire and Rescue NSW.
Anthony stopped his vehicle on a remote road in NSW to ensure that he did not lose his mobile and internet connection while Penny sent photos of the scene to him. Anthony returned photos and diagrams with instructions on where to place the straps under Comet’s back legs to bear the weight of pulling while minimising the risk of injury.
After three and a half hours, Comet was finally pulled out of the well, but he wasn’t out of the woods.
“We’d had to put him on his side while pulling him out to reduce injury to his back legs. But horses aren’t usually on their side for so long, so there had been a massive amount of pressure on his chest and lungs. We were worried about internal injuries,” Penny said.
Thankfully, apart from being cold and having a small cut on one leg, Comet survived his ordeal unscathed. His owner, Kim, reported that Comet was a bit sore for a few days but was soon trotting around happily. “But he keeps well away from that well!” against time.