Fallen horse's tragic fate spurs rescue group's efforts

Large animals pose special challenge to volunteers

Horse tragedy prompts effort to help in the future

BEND, Ore. - A tragic accident this week led to the death of a fallen horse near Dillon Falls, southwest of Bend. Now, volunteers who tried to rescue the animal are banding together to form an organization that could respond to future events and possibly save lives.

The accident happened Tuesday on a well-known horse trail between the Aspen Day-Use Area and the falls. Out on an ordinary ride, the large draft horse slipped on the rocks. 

“A horse took a very unfortunate stumble, in a very unfortunate position,” said Kate Beardsley, founder of Mustangs to the Rescue. “And this is just one of those accidents that couldn’t have been predicted, or prevented.”

When a horse is in trouble in Central Oregon, Mustangs to the Rescue is ready to respond. Dozens of volunteers worked alongside veterinarians for hours, trying to get the horse to stand back up.

“Our team has been working very hard to raise the animal,” Beardsley said. And unfortunately, the difficult decision was made to euthanize the animal.

Twelve hours later, the horse remained at the bottom of a steep, wooded hill, a half-mile from the day use area.

Draft horses are much larger than average horses, and the volunteers had to move more than 2,400 pounds in a rugged environment.

But the people worked together, committed to keeping the animal’s dignity.

 “It's just the fact that they're God's creatures, and need to be respected, whether they are dead or alive,” said Lee Ashcroft, owner of Lee’s Animal Service.

“They have to be taken care of, once they pass,” he said. “And so I just want to make sure that, I want animals get treated the way I'd want my animals to be treated, and treat the people the way I'd want to be treated.”

Many of the volunteers working to recover the horse are part of a developing group called TLAER, which stands for Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue.

Beardsley said, “We are available to respond when a horse is over a cliff, or a cow is in a well, or there’s a bunch of hogs loose on the interstate — any technical, large animal emergency scene.”

The group has a few more steps before they’re official, but this event highlighted the need for an organized response to large animals in danger. They are seeking funding and equipment, the latter of which might have changed the outcome of this week’s event.

TLAER volunteer Laura Robeson said, We needed some equipment from Washington. Washington state TLAER was going to come down and assist us, but it’s a little bit too far. So we need to get equipment here in Central Oregon, so we an better serve the area, and also other parts of the state.

Volunteers worked in the rain late into Wednesday night to recover the horse, then repaired the area affected by their efforts.

Central Oregon is closely tied to the outdoors and ranching. But when there’s trouble, it must rely on many different groups — and neighbors helping neighbors.

“And while we have a team now, to make it formal, to get the liability issues covered, to really set it up for success is really going to take an effort by this community,” Beardsley said. “And this community deserves a formal team that can respond.”

Their hope is that out of this tragedy, people come together to form an organization that could make a difference.

If you’re interested in donating your time or resources to the formation of a large animal rescue organization, you can contact Mustangs to the Rescue through their website.

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