Getting Involved: Horse Rescue on Hayling Island

Posted on Jul 27, 2013

Horses on Hayling IslandI don’t know what it is, but everywhere I go lately I seem to find on my path some touching if not life-changing encounter. And last night ws no was no exception.

Early yesterday morning I flew from France to England to get the house ready and meet my husband when he comes home from sea.

After I did my errands and did a bit of work on the computer, just before sunset I decided to go out for a walk. With the beach being about two blocks from our house, I headed down there.


Beauty is The Beast

As I turned west I was amazed to see a horse in the water, and as I stood and watched a large group of young people – maybe 15 people with 8 to 10 horses – all hit the beach making a beeline for the water. Girls and guys, some were using saddles, some were riding bareback, and a couple were even pulling buggies.

One young guy took one of the horses into the water. I think he must’ve lost the lead rope because the horse got away from him and started swimming out to sea. He swam after the horse, but that horse was fast: he swam farther and farther away, out past the buoys moving east.

Worry or Not

Now I know horses can swim but I couldn’t help thinking that this horse was very far out and probably in at least 20 feet of water. He was definitely above his head. And he was not coming back to shore. In the meantime, the young man had led another horse, a pinto, into the water and was there with him holding his lead.

I saw the riders looking on, trying different things: putting the other horses in the water, calling the horse, moving toward and away from him on the beach, but after about 15 minutes, they just pretty much gave up. They did not seem concerned. About 20 minutes passed, and I started to get worried about the horse. I didn’t know what the currents were like, and I at this point couldn’t even see him anymore.

Immediately, I thought of the Hayling Island Lifeboat Station, but I didn’t know how to reach them. I spoke with a man on the beach who said he had called the Coast Guard, but I didn’t see anything happening. So I called a neighbor who gave me the Coast Guard number. The man who answered was not very happy; but when I said I didn’t know who else to call, he transferred me to the police emergency number.

I spoke with the police dispatcher and told her what I had seen. She said the officers were on their way and asked met to meet them. By this time I felt fairly nervous, wondering if I was making a mountain out of a molehill, if I wasn’t completely out of my league, and what was going to happen. I didn’t want to create a problem; I just knew that by this time the horse had been out in water over his head swimming for about 45 minutes, and I could not see him.

Into Action

Within minutes, a large fire and rescue truck passed me aiming for the horse that was in the water then. I saw two fireman running down the beach, and I approached a third fireman to tell him I had made the call. On his radio he learned that a speed boat was coaxing the horse into shore at the other end of the beach. As he ran to take the firetruck to them, I started walking.

It took me at least 20 minutes to get to where they were, and by the time I got there, a crowd was gathering. There was the horse standing in about four feet of water, but making no moves at all to come out of the sea. The police had isolated the beach, the fire and rescue people were there along with the lifeboat rescue people, the ones I had originally tried to contact. There was a group of about 8 to 10 rescue workers on the beach, and the horse in the water.

A policeman was motioning me away, but I approached to tell him I had made the call. He thanked me and  dismissed me. But I wanted to see this horse come out of the water.

They tried a lot of things, but nothing worked. Eventually, after about another 30 minutes, the owner showed up with some hay and a bucket of food; even that was not working. In fact, as he got closer with the food, the horse started to swim out to sea again.

At that point, the lifeboat team took a rope into the sea, gradually encircling the horse so that he couldn’t swim back out. The young man arrived with the pinto, and he and the man with the food both went in. And eventually they got close enough to the gray horse him to grab the lead. About  1 ½ hours had passed when they finally got him out of the water. The crowd cheered.

[Watch the video here.]

All’s Well That…?

The young man ran the pinto up the hill of the beach over the wooden seawall up onto the parking lot. But the gray horse couldn’t make it, so the other guy took him down to a flatter part of the beach and walked him back.

But I am left with an uneasy feeling, because that horse did not seem to want to go with his owners. I am left with a question about getting involved. You think you know the right thing to do, but you don’t always.

Whatever this horse’s fate, I’m still glad that I made the call and I’m glad that I saw him come out of the water. I just knew I couldn’t do nothing, knowing that the possibility was there for a horse to drown.

Compassion and Creative Action

And I think about these recent incidents in my life, and I feel compassion. I don’t know why; I just know in those moments that I have to do something, whatever I can, even if it’s a small thing.

And for me this is what it means to take my place in the adventure of life. Every time I walk out my door, life is happening all around me, for better or worse. And when I see a need, I have an opportunity to take action. And to me that’s a creative act.

To me, by professionalizing creativity, we have trivialized the creative force of life. Excuse me. “Because I’m not an artist, I’m not on stage, I don’t make my living doing this, I’m not creative.” When you see a problem or a need and you don’t get involved, it costs you something. It’s a choice to not live, to not respond.

I spent most of my life being rather apolitical. Now, at the age of 57 I’m feeling more and more the need to act, to get involved, to make a difference, to create something in response to the great need of this world. And it’s tricky for me because I grew up as an evangelical Christian: our role was to save the world. And I now know that I can’t do that, and that it’s not my job. Or maybe it is our job.

Am I a Keeper?

The biblical story goes that in the Garden of Eden when Cain killed his brother Abel, God came to Cain and said, “Where’s your brother, Cain?” And Cain’s response was, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” And I guess I’m starting to think, “Yes. Yes, we are.”

What do you think?

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