Photo credit: Randall Spackman
Cyrus the Clydesdale may not have his own twitter account, but he achieved global fame nonetheless. Dramatic pictures of the 18-year-old being rescued from a Chester County, PA pond in early October were spread across the country and around the world. Cyrus went viral!
The heroic efforts of nearly 75 firefighters, EMTs, police, veterinarians and construction workers made great TV, especially as the crane finally lifted Cyrus out of the muck and set him on dry ground.
“The day will come when everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” Andy Warhol said, famously. And so it was for Cyrus. As quickly as he had captured the imaginations of the global village, he vanished from the headlines. And that’s too bad, because his story is far more interesting and important than the crane and the pond and the bully horse that allegedly chased him into the pond.
Cyrus is now enjoying what you might call his third “second chance,” thanks to the efforts of a dedicated young woman named Penny Parker. She spotted Cyrus at the New Holland auction barn, and that’s where this Clydesdale’s life changed. There are thousands of sad stories about the horses that go from New Holland to the abattoirs in Canada. But there are also thousands of really uplifting, happy endings for horses that go through this auction.
Some people look at the New Holland horse auction as the last stop for horses that are out of luck and out of options. Others see the auction through a different lens. “I volunteer with a group called Horses of New Holland,” Parker explains. “And every Sunday and Monday morning we post pictures on our page of all the horses that are in the auction.” She and others in the organization act as proxy bidders for people who live too far away to get to the auction, but who want to bid on specific horses, like, for instance a Shire named Magnus…or a Clydesdale named Cyrus.
“Pam Tubbs Horswill and her husband Keith saw pictures of Magnus and put money into my PayPal account to get the Shire,” Parker says. She also had her eye on Cyrus, and had enough money in her account to get him, too. The Horswill’s live in Virginia, and Parker planned to ship them both to their new home, but first Magnus needed some veterinary attention. “The Shire is a stallion and we had to get him castrated at Unionville (Equine Associates),” she explained, so she brought Cyrus home to Thornbury, which is a boarding facility, to wait for Magnus to recover.
How Do You Lose a Clydesdale?
Randell Spackman, who owns Thornbury Stables and the Thornbury CSA, said that nobody could find Cyrus when they were feeding the horses breakfast early on October 5. “How do you lose a Clydesdale? They thought he may have jumped out of the pasture.” He said they called the police and began searching the property for Cyrus. “They looked down at the pond,” he says, and saw Cyrus. Spackman says that horses do drink from the edges of the pond, but there is a lot of mud. Cyrus had apparently run into the pond and gotten stuck. “His foot created such suction, he got himself so wedged in that soil he couldn’t get his feet back out.”
Spackman said he was astonished at the way so many people worked in concert to save the horse. “They had firefighters and rescuers digging by hand in the mud,” he says. “The amount of thought and engineering that went into this was incredible. There were 75 rescuers there. There were even ambulances, in case a rescuer got hurt.” Rescuers had to build a makeshift platform to stabilize themselves so they could keep Cyrus’ head above the water and start wrapping a sling around the horse. Once the sling was in place a large crane would lift him to safety.
Rescuers Dug by Hand to Free Cyrus
“We didn’t see it happen,” Parker says about suggestions that Cyrus ran into the pond to escape from a barnyard bully. “Nobody knows that for sure but we’ve watched this particular horse chase Cyrus and my horse, Ghost, into a fence. He has a tendency to chase horses around. He’s a big bully.” She said that Cyrus, still new to the farm and not familiar with the terrain, made a wrong turn, probably in the dark. It’s as simple as that. The pond, she says, was actually more of a swamp at the time, because of all the rain.
Rescuers on the scene estimated that Cyrus was more than 80 per cent submerged in the muck. While the search for Cyrus had begun in earnest early in the morning, there was no way of knowing just how long he had been stuck.
Even though he was new to the farm, Cyrus had become close friends with Ghost, and their friendship is another reminder of how and why horses are such compelling, interesting companions to people. Parker says the two rescue horses bonded almost immediately, and became almost inseparable.
While rescuers were in the mud, digging by hand to put some sort of brace around Cyrus, veterinarians had sedated the horse. It was a difficult operation, and took about five hours. Cyrus had to remain calm.
With the sling finally secure, the crane lifted Cyrus about 20 feet in the air, and set him gently on dry ground. Unsteady, shaking and traumatized by his experience, this poor soul clearly needed a friend. And that’s when Ghost arrived on the scene. “When he saw Ghost being led down the hillside, he perked right up, and that showed he was alert and aware of his surroundings,” Spackman says. “It was very heartwarming to see that.”
Parker says it was an unforgettable moment. “We brought Ghost over and he stood with him and it was really beautiful.”
Go Fund Them, Please!
Cyrus spent a couple of days at Unionville Equine Associates, but was back on the farm and ready to travel to his new, permanent home in Zuni, Virginia. His new owner, Pam Horswill, has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for his medical expenses, and she hopes that horse lovers and folks who care about saving horses from slaughter will contribute. Here’s the link: https://www.gofundme.com/2tn3m66k.