A north Forsyth family and local authorities are mourning the loss of a horse that died hours after he was rescued from shoulder-deep mud.
Karen Brice, one of Popeye’s owners, said the 9-year-old gelding died about 10 a.m. Tuesday of an apparent heart attack. He had been fine 30 minutes earlier.
“It’s awful,” Brice said. “It was something that was so happy [Monday] night and then our 16-year-old daughter went to check on him and found him.
“[The rescue] was just a lot on him, but he was young. We just think it was too much stress on an animal.”
Popeye was found trapped in mud Monday night after Brice noticed his mate, Paisley, standing and staring at the edge of a creek bed on their property off Karr Road.
“We have 38 acres and they’re always together, so when you don’t see one you know something is up,” Brice said.
She then discovered that Popeye was stuck.
She called her daughter, Amanda, who waded into the mud with the horse while waiting for help to arrive.
As the temperatures dropped, the fire department of nearby Milton sent its large animal rescue unit to help Forsyth County firefighters free the horse.
They wrapped a harness underneath the large animal and attached it to a tow truck.
The wrecker slowly pulled the horse from the creek bed. Once freed, Popeye was was wiped down and fed until warmth returned to his body.
“My troops are devastated by the news of Popeye’s passing,” said Fire Chief Danny Bowman. “I’m very proud of their hard efforts in performing a successful rescue and am so thankful for the positive mutual aid relationship that we have here in Forsyth County with our neighbors.”
Fire Capt. Jason Shivers also expressed his condolences to the Brices and thanked Milton firefighters for “reacting quickly and providing critical manpower and equipment for this unique and specialized event.”
“It’s certainly a rescue that we could not have performed without their assistance,” he said.
Shivers also thanked Smokie Ingram for the use of his tow truck.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s animal control unit and local veterinarian Lanier Orr also took part.
Orr evaluated the animal as the family watched anxiously. After reuniting with his owners, Popeye was taken to a barn to recover and rest overnight.
Karen Brice said her daughter, who is captain of the equestrian team at North Forsyth High School, had the horse for about four or five years.
“He was her baby,” Brice said. “We got him from somebody that needed to get rid of a lot of horses. He wasn’t broke and had never been ridden and she did all of that with him.
“He just adored her.”