Horse falls 20 metres down slope, survives after dramatic rescue

Duster the horse is safe and recovering after tumbling almost 20 metres down a creek slope in Courtenay, B.C. Friday evening

Earlier, Duster's owner, Gary Hunt, noticed the horse was missing when he didn't show up to eat with the rest of the animals.

To his dismay, Hunt found the young stallion at the bottom of the large creek that runs through a fenced-off area of his 16-hectare property on Vancouver Island.

Hunt quickly enlisted the help of his neighbours and Comox Valley RCMP to help rescue Duster. Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue were also called in to assist.

Apparently, the horse had been standing on a ledge above a creek when the ground collapsed. Duster landed underneath a waterfall.

"This creek has gradually eroded the ground, and the horse got too close to the edge, the ground gave way, and down he went," said Paul Berry, search manager with Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue.

"He was actually first found in the pool at the bottom of the [waterfall], and the [waterfall is] pouring down on top of him."

Duster sedated

Luckily, the horse had not broken any legs, so the rescuers considered trying to walk him back up the slope, Berry said.

However a veterinarian decided instead to sedate Duster, and the team placed a tarp under the 1,200-pound horse and pulled him up the creek walls using a rope system.

Once the horse was sedated the team had about 20 minutes before the animal would wake, Berry said.

"We were able to get him up the cliff, just with manpower, and that was neighbours, RCMP and the SAR team together on the haul system to bring him on up in about 13 minutes," said Berry, adding that there were about 25 people involved in the rescue.

Berry said rescuing a horse was "pretty unique, and not something we've ever been asked before.

"He was able to get up and walk away from it, after just a tremendous fall for this horse," he said.

Hunt said he was thankful to everyone who helped rescue Duster, which he has owned since it was a foal.

"It was amazing the amount of people that just showed up — we had people here that we didn't even know," he said.

He said Duster is recovering and barely has a scratch.

"I can't believe the feeling. This is one tough horse."

With files from Matt Meuse and CHEK