The Rest of Slick's Story


Assistant Chief Sean Rowland was the first firefighter to arrive at the pond. The police officers pointed their flashlights at the horse, which was struggling in the freezing water about 35 feet from shore. The water temperature was about 32 degrees and the outside air was about 29 degrees. Within six minutes of the initial alarm, firefighters were at the pond.

Captain Chris Parietti said Chief Andrew Esposito told him, "If you think you can do this without getting hurt, then do it."

"All we could see was the horse's nose, ears and eyes out of the water," Parietti said. "The poor thing was working so hard to stay afloat; we had to help him."

They used a chainsaw to cut through the 8-inch ice and made a path through which the horse could escape. In the meantime, Slick was losing strength - Esposito said he rolled over and disappeared under the water three times. "We were sure he wasn't going to make it," he said.

The rescuers attached a rope to Slick's bridle and pushed broken ice out of his path as rescuers on the shore began to pull him in. At one point the exhausted horse rested his head on the side of the inflated boat and let it carry him in. When the boat got to the shore, Slick fell onto his side, his bridle came off and his head slipped under the water. Firefighter Art Anderson and Andy Moser ran to the pond and held the horse's head up so he wouldn't drown.

The rescuers placed a large orange tarp underneath Slick and looped a wide strap around his back. Firefighters stood in the water and pushed the 1,500-pound horse up the embankment as Esposito pulled the animal slowly up the hill with his pickup truck.

Rescuers rubbed the horse vigorously with towels to dry him off. They saw blood-tinged fluids flowing from his nostrils. American Medical Response (AMR) Paramedic Ray Sanchez knelt down next to Slick. He tried to get an intravenous line in, but his needles proved too short for use on a horse. Sanchez, an East Hartford firefighter, said he had never worked on a horse before, but he knew he had to get some fluids into Slick. Even with the wrong equipment, Sanchez was able to do some good. Slick responded to his treatment.

Firefighter Bob Coniff spent a lot of time stroking the horse's head and comforting him while everyone rushed around getting equipment and dry towels.

Dr. Lara Gardner, Slick's veterinarian from the Equine Veterinary Clinic in Portland, arrived before midnight. She and Sanchez worked on the horse, trying to get fluid into him and assessing his vital signs. Slick's temperature was dangerously low at 90.1 degrees.

Despite several spirited attempts to get Slick to stand, Gardner said the horse was still too weak. Rescuers went to Frechette's house and gathered about a dozen large, heavy blankets,as well as a diesel fuel heater, which they brought to the field. Police, firefighters, District Animal Control officers, a neighbor, James Longo, and Frechette's friend Mark Grenier held the blankets around Slick, forming a tent so the machine-generated heat could surround and warm his body.

Bethany Veterinarian Kim McClure arrived at the field around 12:45 a.m. She stitched shunts into place so the needle would stay securely while fluids were being administered. The stitching also would enable them to remove the needle easily when Slick attempted to get on his feet. The firefighters constructed a makeshift IV stand using a stepladder and a pole and took turns holding it. At 1:14 a.m. Slick had stopped shivering and his temperature had risen about one degree.

By 2:18 a.m., with the heat and warm fluids in the IV line, Slick's temperature had risen to 94.4 degrees; an encouraging sign for everyone around him.

After several attempts to get the horse on his feet, someone noticed that Slick was slipping toward the incline and could end up in the pond again. Gardner advised the rescuers how to safely secure wide webbed lines to his legs and, with McClure securing Slick's head, he was flipped from his right side to his left side so he was laying on clean dry blankets. The move put an extra five feet or so between him and the pond.

Rescuers continued to warm him with the heater and makeshift tent, occasionally massaging his legs and whispering reassuring words into his ears. Anderson, who stayed by Slick's side for six hours, said he was encouraged when he saw steam coming from the horse's nostrils as he breathed. "When he first got out of the water, there was no steam," Anderson said. "But gradually, as his temperature went up, we began to see it.

Victory came when rescuers once again tried to get Slick to stand at 4:30 a.m. McClure said it was a miracle when, six hours after being pulled from the pond, Slick popped up, got his bearings and began to walk. Firefighters spread Speedy Dry on the ground so Slick wouldn't slip on the ice, and the group of rescuers guided him to the garage where hay and wood shavings had been laid out for him.

"By the end, everyone was cold and exhausted," said Fire Commissioner Beth Heller. "But, when they were given a chance to leave, [rescuers] said they couldn't go. Everyone wanted to be there when the horse stood up." As the rescuers drove away, Grenier prepared Slick for a ride to the Portland clinic, securing a warm, dry blanket on his back and applying leg wraps. Inside a large horse trailer, Ozzie was waiting for his friend. At 5:15 a.m. Slick stepped up into the trailer and calmly took his place inside a slip next to Ozzie.

Follow-up. Slick is doing fine. He has been visited by the rescuers who helped save his life. "This wasn't about us," said Anderson. "It's about the horse, he fought so hard. He wanted to live. He's just incredible."