Old saddlebred too weak to stand after hours in water

Feb. 06, 2013 @ 11:10 AM

It took 20 grown men, one wrecker and three hours to pull Comet, Cecil Byrd’s 28-year-old American saddlebred, out of a creek bed to safety.

Comet’s pasture lines a rocky driveway just off Abington Road near Collettsville. At some point Monday, Comet apparently had been grazing alongside the narrow, steeply banked creek when the earth under him gave way, throwing Comet down the bank,  through a barbed-wire fence and into the creek.

Byrd found Comet around 5:30 p.m., immobilized by the wrapped barbed wire, shivering in the cold water. The Collettsville Fire Department was called out a few minutes later and began work as the sun threatened to dip below the horizon and drop the temperature to near freezing. Meanwhile, Byrd snipped the barbed wire off the horse.

“The horse was in the creek shivering and soaking wet, and it couldn’t stand on its own,” said Collettsville Fire Chief Larry Price.

Neighbors were summoned to help. A webbing used in rescue operations was wrapped around Comet as they tried to pull him to a bank on the opposite side of the pasture. An hour went by, and Comet, legs cramping and unable to move, laid down in the creek. A wrecker equipped with a roll-back -- a flat bed that rolls back to extend behind the truck -- was brought in. The truck’s bed stretched across the creek, and a winch was used to pull Comet to safety.

For the next 45 minutes the rescuers wrapped Comet

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in blankets to warm him and tried to get him to stand. Eventually, Comet found the strength to stand on his own.

Byrd gave Comet some food and stayed with him until 10:30 p.m.

Byrd said Comet has been a part of the family the horse’s entire life. He is the only horse they have ever owned and is the same age as their son, Cody. At one time, Comet was destined to be a show horse. Byrd favors saddlebreds over quarterhorses.

“A quarterhorse, you go up and down when you ride it,” Byrd said. “A saddlebred’s ride is like a Cadillac.”

Comet only lets Byrd take the saddle. Mostly, Comet bides his time in the pasture.

Byrd estimates Comet had been in the creek up to five hours before he discovered him. He plans to erect a barrier to keep Comet away from that creek bank. He doesn’t think Comet could live through another frigid rescue attempt.

“I thought I was gonna’ lose him,” a relieved Byrd said. “He’s here now. He might just have another birthday.”