Story by Cindy Beamon of the DailyAdvance.com
“Without him, the foal most certainly would have drowned…”
COROLLA — An off-duty Currituck sheriff’s deputy rescued a month-old wild horse from drowning Tuesday, but another foal in the same predicament last week wasn’t so lucky.
A foal shivering from exhaustion was pulled from a bulkheaded canal near Spreader Lane around noon Tuesday, said Karen McCalpin, executive director for the Wild Horse Fund.
Deputy Nathan Large, seeing that the foal was in danger of drowning, reportedly jumped into the canal and lifted the animal over a bulkhead to safety, said McCalpin.
Large could not be reached Wednesday to comment about the rescue.
According to McCalpin, the foal and its mother had been in the water for hours, unable to find a way out. The water was too low and the bulkhead too high for the horses to jump to
safety, she said. When Large spotted the horses, the foal’s head had begun to drop, a sign it would soon drown.
Large, unable to direct the horses to safety from the bulkhead, leaped into the water and lifted the 80- to 85-pound foal to safety.
“Without him, the foal most certainly would have drowned,” McCalpin said.
A resident then stayed with the foal while Large led the sometimes-reluctant mare a distance equal to about two football fields to a break in the bulkhead so that it could come ashore.
The rescue was not easy, said McCalpin. Snakes lurk in the murky water, and the canal bottom sinks in spots.
Both horses were in good condition Wednesday.
The outcome was more deadly, however, for another foal caught in a canal last week.
The foal was found dead on July 11.
McCalpin said the month-old male horse was alone. Its legs had scratches as if it had tried to get out of the water, she said.
It’s uncertain how the horses ended up in the water.
The lone foal may have fallen in and couldn’t get out, said McCalpin.
In Tuesday’s incident, the mare may have been foraging for aquatic plants in the water, said McCalpin. Domestic horse wouldn’t normally eat the underwater plants, but the wild horses have adapted their eating habits to the habitat, she noted.
Finding their way back ashore would have been difficult for the horses in a neighborhood threaded with canals that were dug in 1967, said McCalpin. The bulkheads have too few breaks for an easy escape, she said.
McCalpin was unsure why the older horse could not find its way out. The mare may have been waiting for the stallion that leads the harem to direct her to safety, McCalpin said.
The mishaps are not the first time horses have either fallen or been trapped in the canals, said McCalpin. Last summer residents reported two incidents, both with happy endings.
More breaks in the bulkheads could help prevent future incidents, she said.
The wild horses are a popular attraction on the Outer Banks and have been spotlighted this year in a statewide advertising campaign.
The foal’s rescue has been a big attention-getter on the Wild Horse Fund’s Facebook page, said McCalpin. As of Wednesday afternoon, the page had more than 12,000 hits.