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Diverse group joins to rescue hurt horses

Published Sep. 16, 2005

With two horses bucking wildly inside the trailer she was towing, Judy Smith was about to pull her truck over to the side of County Line Road and calm the animals when the worst happened:

The mares, Missy and Gracie, somehow threw the trailer onto its side.

"I just thought to myself, "Oh, God,' " Smith said. " "It's going over.' "

Pasco Fire-Rescue Engine 20 was headed west on County Line Road when the crew saw the eastbound trailer tip over.

"When I saw that trailer go over, I just thought the worst," said Lt. Joe Harrell, whose crew was returning to its station in Shady Hills. "We just stopped and got to work right away."

They weren't the only ones. Within minutes, firefighters, sheriff's deputies, veterinarians and volunteers from Pasco and Hernando counties descended on the scene at County Line Road and Josie's Drive.

After an intense two hours beneath the hot afternoon sun, both horses _ bruised and battered _ were walking around, much to the relief of their rescuers.

"They'll be pretty sore for the next couple of days, but they seem to be fine," said Doug Davenport of Animal Health Associates Veterinary Clinic in Brooksville. "They've suffered lots of lacerations and bruises, and possibly minor fractures. It'll take them six to eight weeks to fully recover."

Smith, 41, of Hillsborough County, was towing Gracie, her 10-year-old mare, and Missy, an 18-year-old mare owned by Laura Way of Spring Hill, to the Smith horse farm in Lithia with her 1984 Toyota truck when the accident occurred at 5:10 p.m. Tuesday.

"No one was at fault," said Florida Highway Patrol Trooper R. J. Peters. "The trailer and horses outweighed the truck. The horses just started throwing the trailer around, and over it went."

Gracie was lying atop Missy inside the overturned trailer, and blood coated the sides of the trailer from wounds on Gracie's head.

Firefighters cut into the top of the trailer with the jaws of life, then pried open the lower half and flattened it so they could remove Missy.

Together, the rescuers each grabbed a bit of Missy's tail, hair and mane and dragged her out of the trailer. Then it was Gracie's turn.

Both horses were given saline intravenously to combat the heat. Residents from Tropic Trailer Park nearby held umbrellas over the horses and brought buckets of water to keep them cool. Veterinarians applied wet towels to the horses, treated their wounds, gave each mild sedatives and checked them for the injury everyone feared most, a broken leg.

"That would have been the end of it," Davenport said. "The horse would have to be put down after that."

But soon Missy was able to stand up, and all eyes fell on Gracie.

At first Gracie made it up only on her front legs, and when rescuers tried to get her to put weight on her hind legs, she bucked wildly, sending everyone scrambling.

Finally, she managed to stand up on all four hoofs.

"We're real happy they're okay," said Way, an English teacher at Hudson High School. "Horses are Judy's livelihood."

Veterinarians told Smith, a trainer and riding instructor, that the horses could not make the two-hour trip to her Hillsborough County farm.

Instead, the horses were taken to a nearby Pasco County farm, whose owner volunteered its use.

"We had people coming from all over two counties to help here," said Hernando County sheriff's Deputy K.

D. O'Neill, "and everyone just came together to help those horses."