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Riverside County Animal Services worked together with multiple agencies to rescue a horse today (Nov. 26) in a remote area northeast of Lake Skinner.

A horse rider fell off her horse on Wednesday (Nov. 24) afternoon and the horse ended up in a ravine, stuck between two boulders. The ravine was just off of Indian Oak Drive, west of De Portala Road, in unincorporated Temecula. 

It was uncertain what caused the accident, but the horse bolted at some point, causing the woman to fall off the animal as it continued charging away.

The rider and the horse suffered injuries which were believed to be minor. The horse, a 4-year-old gelding named Sunny, was treated on scene by an equine veterinarian prior to today’s rescue. It was believed the owner of the horse camped overnight with her pet to offer it company and comfort.

Lt. Lesley Huennekens led the Animal Services team and was joined by members of CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, members of the Horse Animal Rescue Team (HART) – a specialized unit from the Riverside Fire Department – and NART, the Norco Animal Rescue Team. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department provided the pilot and helicopter crew to make the successful airlift happen.

Conditions prevented a rescue on Wednesday and Thursday due to high winds, Lt. Huennekens said.

“These airlift rescues require optimum conditions,” she said. “We’re so thankful to the HART crew from the Riverside city fire department, and our county partners in the fire and sheriff’s departments to make this operation a major success. Saving Sunny from this predicament will be a highlight of the year for all of us.”

Animal Services officers have worked in previous training exercises with HART and, also, NART – The Norco Animal Rescue Team. Both units are invaluable to assisting animal control officers with these unique, large-animal rescues, Huennekens said. The HART firefighters assisted in the ravine and the NART crew assisted on Friday’s rescue at the landing zone.

Sunny, weighing approximately 1,000 pounds with a height of almost 16 hands, was sedated before his flight to allow his rescuers safe conditions to strap on the specialized harness. The harness – called an Anderson Sling – is placed atop the horse and straps are wrapped around the animal to offer stability.

The rescue happened at about 2:40 p.m. All told, Sunny’s flight lasted about 10 minutes.

A resident in the area provided the sheriff’s helicopter pilot with a field to land Sunny for his recovery period.

Media Contact:

John Welsh, PIO

Riverside County Animal Services


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