Horse owner credits Alachua County deputy in rescue
Published: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 11:06 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 11:06 a.m.
Midnight may not have the nine lives that cats are reputed to have, but the Tennessee Walker got a second chance at life over the weekend after a scary incident on Paynes Prairie.
Midnight and his owner, James Bland, of Ocala, were making their first visit to the horse-friendly state park Friday when their real adventure began around 12:15 p.m.
“I was walking him, and we started down a trail that turned out to be the bog,” Bland said Tuesday morning. “He found the hole and got into it and then as he tried to get out, he just got himself in deeper and deeper.”
What surprised Bland about the approximately 11-year-old horse was that the accident happened at all.
“He's a tank who will go anywhere,” Bland said. “He didn't know what he was getting into and neither did I. I had never heard of a peat bog in Florida.”
Bland used his cell phone to call for help. Among the first to arrive was Alachua County Sheriff's Office Deputy Danny Buckley. Sheriff's spokesman Art Forgey said Buckley is normally assigned to the road patrol, but also serves as a backup rural services deputy.
Buckley turned out to be the right deputy in the right place at the right time, according to Bland.
“Midnight liked him and trusted him,” Bland said. “He was really dedicated to helping Midnight.”
Buckley was the person who made the calls to round up the team that extricated Midnight, including the Paynes Prairie State Park Rangers, the University of Florida's Veterinary School's Disaster Response Team and additional deputies.
“He (Buckley) stayed with Midnight until he was out of the muck and then walked with him the three miles back to the trailer at 9 p.m.,” Bland said.
According to the Sheriff's Office, the rescuers sedated Midnight, repositioned the approximately 1,000-pound animal on its side and then pulled him out using a sling. Forgey said it took a sled, pulleys, ropes and a lot of human power to get Midnight onto dry ground.
Once Midnight reached solid ground, he was able to stand on his own four feet and walk back to the trailer for the ride back home.
Bland said Midnight was acting normal on Tuesday morning and did not seem to show any signs of having been affected by the adventure. Bland also credited Buckley for making it possible for Midnight to return to his home pasture.
“He went above and beyond the call of duty for Midnight,” Bland said. “His devotion to horses is extraordinary.”
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