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Putnam EMS Responders Help Save Trapped Horse

Updated: May 12, 2023



Niko was finally able to stand on his own after being pulled from a muddy swam last week. Photo by Joey Nickischer.


Thanks to a group of well-trained volunteers, an 11-year-old, 1,400-pound horse named Niko was rescued last week from a muddy swamp in the area.

The newly-formed Putnam County Technical Rescue Team, and the Patterson Fire Department were dispatched at about 6 p.m. Jan. 17 to assist Croton Falls F.D. and the Westchester County TRT with a horse rescue on Hardscrabble Road in North Salem.

According to Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne’s office, Niko was spooked while being ridden around a vineyard and took off crashing through the woods, losing his rider along the way. The initial location of the horse was unknown, and Westchester County Police Aviation was called for assistance, as well as the Yorktown Fire Department.

Niko was found about a mile away, where he was mired in mud and had fallen over, unable to stand up by himself.

“This was a really wet swamp with boot-sucking mud,” said Putnam County TRT Commander Joey Nickischer. “Rescuers were falling over as their feet got stuck and had to rely on each other to pull themselves free.”

The rescue plan involved “building” a roadway of about 20 plywood sheets between dry ground and the horse, and then digging Niko out as much as possible.

“We had an excavator on site ready to assist, but it couldn’t get as close as we’d like because the mud was too deep,” said Herb Doerr of the Westchester County TRT.

A local veterinarian administered anesthesia to the horse to calm him down. Then, ropes and straps were placed under Niko to help free him from his predicament.

It took more than 25 individuals to pull Niko out of the mud, sliding the horse onto a makeshift sled that could then glide over the improvised roadway onto more solid ground, where Niko was finally able to safely stand up.

Personnel on the ground described this as a very difficult rescue. It took the combined skills, equipment and experience of all the fire-rescue personnel to have a positive outcome, plus a dozen agencies to support the more than 4-hour operation.

In the end, Niko was able to walk onto a trailer and was transported to a veterinary clinic for evaluation.

“As always, tremendous thank you to all our local first responders and volunteers,” said Byrne. “Your efforts will not go unnoticed and we’re proud of the work you’ve done. The ingenuity displayed by our Putnam County Technical Rescue Team is something to be admired and I cannot be more proud of them for their success in their first call alongside their counterparts in Westchester.”

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