"Clyde Caught in a Slide" by Willis Lamm
I started leading Havilynn across, a process that I soon discovered was not easy. I had to pick my way through the maze of holes and try to keep Havilynn going along the smoother upper edge of the slide. At one point I stepped toward her to clear an obstacle and the lead rope went too slack and she stepped on it. She didn't panic, but she sort of humped forward to get clear of the rope. In doing so, her right front foot left the firm area and sank into the muddy crevice above the slide. She lunged forward to pull her self free as I tried to scramble forward to give her enough slack in the lead rope that she could move her head for balance.
The big mare broke through the damp upper crust and immediately sank up to her shoulder in mud, rolling over onto her left side. Her left foreleg and shoulder had completely disappeared into the muck. I had no idea if she had broken or dislocated it. Her other three legs were flailing uphill as she lay crosswise on the slope, her topline pointing downhill. I watched in horror as she struggled in vain to get up a couple of times, but with each movement she only sank deeper. She finally took a great breath and lay her head down on its side. Sharon's leg was too sore for her to make it up to us let alone help pull the mare out, so she scrambled back to hold the horses and Patty came up to the scene.
There was no way to get help, and even if we could, it would take too long as the trail was impassible to vehicles. We had to solve this problem ourselves and we had to do it fast as it was late in the day.
The first order of business was to get the saddle off. I considered that if we could get her legs free we could roll her over and with her feet pointed downhill she could get herself up, and we needed the saddle off to try that. Patty stayed at Havilynn's head to keep her calm in case she stirred.
Getting a saddle off of a horse which was laying on her side buried in the mud was not an easy task. I was able to free the cinch from the top side, but I also had to undo the laces which held the billets to the saddle on the underside. This required scooping the mud away from them sufficiently to get at them to untie them with my Leatherman tool. Next I had to dig the stirrup out from under the great beast. With that effort completed I had the saddle off and Patty lugged it away from our work area.
Next I had to find Havilynn's buried left front leg. This was not easy. It was under several inches of sod and mud which Patty and I had to dig away double handfuls at a time. It seemed like it was taking forever to remove the mud as more crept into the hole I was making. I finally touched her leg and started to work along its length. It was in a flexed position and showed no signs of deformity. I kept having to reposition myself as I worked because my feet would start to disappear into the pudding-like soil.
Finally I exposed her entire left leg, but I couldn't get it out. It was stuck fast in the mud. Thank God Sharon used trusty kernmantle braid marine-grade rope for reins as I was able to get the rope under her leg and haul with all my might to get it free of its sticky bonds. With this done, I looked the situation over and noticed that her right front leg had now started sinking in the mud.
All Sharon could see from her position was the body of her Clydesdale disappearing slowly into the hillside and Patty and my heads bobbing up from time to time. The big mare lay totally still and didn't appear to have any will or strength left.
We dug her right front leg free. Patty moved uphill and got above her hind legs, I lifted her forelegs and we attempted to log roll her down the hill. All we accomplished was to sink ourselves into the mud. Patty appeared to be now stuck up to the calves of her legs. In the meanwhile the ground around Havilynn's rear end was starting to give way and she was starting to sink.
Patty and I freed ourselves and I managed to pull Havilynn's forelegs out in front of her. At least they wouldn't sink for the moment and we could figure out what to do next. Havilynn raised her head, gave a groan and with a tremendous heave, somehow pulled herself to her feet. She started to sink again and I ran out ahead of her calling to her to come toward me. She fell and again sank to her chest, but somehow had enough strength forward momentum to pull her front legs free of the muck and lunge forward a second time. This time she worked free of the bog and as I ran forward, I could hear her chugging and crunching through the soil surface behind me as she scrambled to get clear. Finally she was past the slide and stood on the hillside, obviously sore and shaken, but in one piece. We left her alone for a few minutes to compose herself and hauled the saddle and equipment down to the trail past the slide. I was exhausted and lay down for a minute, pondering how I was going to get the other horses across.
Mikey whinnied at Havilynn who acted like she might try to go back across the slide to return to the other two horses. I called to her to distract her and hiked back up to where I had left her, snapped the rein on her headstall to use as a lead rope her and led her down to the trail to Patty. She was a bit wobbly at first but navigated the hillside without any further disasters. We weren't in a position to split up the group, so now the problem was getting the other two horses past the slide.
I picked my way back to Sharon and took Mikey. We slogged along through the flooded meadow as quickly as we could so he wouldn't sink into the wet ground. Mikey, who generally doesn't like to get his feet wet, traversed the 500 ft. through the meadow without any hesitation. The going was rough and when we reached the other side, there was adobe mud splashed all over Mikey clear up onto the sides and top of his saddle. After giving Mikey to Patty, I went back for CJ whom Sharon had already started leading through the marsh. CJ also waded through without incident. Sharon turned back to cross at the slide and got stuck as well, sinking almost up to her right knee, which as "Murphy" would have it was the same leg as her groin pull. By the time I hiked back to Sharon, her left leg was now sunk. With some assistance getting her legs free of the muck, Sharon finally made it across the slide safely as well.
I reassembled the saddle and placed it on Havilynn so she could pack it out. We led the horses down the trail until it met a road. We didn't know how sore Havilynn might be and felt that it made sense to avoid the last mile and a half of trail which included some steep climbs and descents. We decided that when we reached a point where the trail was near a road, I would set out alone on CJ to get the trailer and bring it up the road to where the group would be waiting.
I climbed up on CJ and the little mustang (on his first trail ride) jogged off away from the group without hesitation. We made great time back to the trailer, CJ hopped right in and we left to pick up the other horses. We pulled the muddy saddles off Havilynn and Mikey, loaded them up and took everybody home.
It was pouring rain by the time we got back to the stable, but it wasn't nearly enough to make a dent in the caked mud which covered Havilynn. It took a while with a garden hose running over a shedder to scrape her down to where one could even tell what color she was. Amazingly enough, she didn't have a nick or a scrape on her. We turned her loose to graze for a bit, then gave her a couple of grams of Bute and put her up for the night. CJ and Mikey also got some extra treats for their part in the ordeal.
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