The horse ended up kicking the window out and going into the basement. —Unified Fire Capt. Lee Escarte
HERRIMAN — Memorial Day weekend was a rough one for a handful of Utah animals.
Between a horse that fell into a Herriman basement, kittens buried under a new concrete garage floor in West Jordan, and five baby ducks trapped in a storm drain in Sugar House, rescuers were kept busy but managed to save all the animals.
• A large Arabian horse, called Himself, got himself trapped in a window well, and then a basement Sunday evening. But his owner said the incident began earlier, when the horse tried to show off for a romantic partner.
The horse had been bred with a bay mare named Badella Saturday, owner Samantha Winburn said. She thinks he was daydreaming about the encounter when he wandered, grazing, into the backyard.
"I think that's why he came into the yard," Winburn said. "And I think he just flipped around, showing off for her, and that's when he fell into the window well."
Unified police responded to the Herriman home around 7 p.m., found the horse trapped in the well and called for help.
"They called in their animal control folks to try and extricate the horse out of the window well with no success," Unified Fire Capt. Lee Escarte said. "The horse ended up kicking the window out and going into the basement."
But Himself still had Badella on his mind, Winburn said. Once Himself was in the house, he was still looking for his paramour.
"When he came out of the window and finally stood up, first thing he did was walk to the other window and called to her, in spite of all his injuries and cuts and bruises," Winburn said.
They tried to coax the horse up the stairs of the home, but it was too claustrophobic for the animal. He wasn't in any hurry, either.
"Oh, he was fine down there," Winburn said. "I think he was casing it out, you know. It was like a bachelor pad or something. And I thought, 'No, you need to go out. Go back to your room.'"
At that point, Unified fire crews and their heavy rescue team were called in to assist and they called a veterinarian. Escarte said the team came up with two plans and allowed Winburn to make the call.
"We had the veterinarian tranquilize the horse while our heavy rescue company set a haul system to remove the horse from the basement," he said.
They broke out a window, removed part of the home's deck and brought in a backhoe to dig a trench that would allow them to get Himself out of the basement. Winburn said her horse was then put on a sled and taken out of the home.
"I'm glad my horse is still alive," she said afterward. "He fell in the window well and these fantastic firemen and policemen and the vets, everyone came out. It was a concerted team effort."
Escarte said the whole incident lasted around two hours and caused a couple thousand of dollars in damage to the home. Although there was concern about Himself's age, which at 26 is akin to a 70-year-old human, the horse seemed fine.
"This is actually a very positive outcome," Escarte said, adding that the horse was up and walking around after the medication wore off. "It doesn't happen too often, but they adapted to the situation and it all worked out in the end."
Winburn said the animal is a rare creature with a sire raised in Egypt and descendants in Kuwait. His full name is Emire Idn Farzdak and Winburn considers him her soulmate. Sunday's incident had her "terrified."
"It is a very special horse," she said. “(He is the) gentlest stallion you will ever meet — he is smart and protective.”
• The first rescue of the weekend was also extraordinary and came for several cats buried under concrete in a home being built in West Jordan. Back in January, a hollow-core concrete slab similar to a honeycomb was installed into the home's garage floor. On May 12, the final layer of concrete was poured.
Then, last week, workers started hearing small meows. They would call to what they thought was a single cat and get weak responses.
"The sheet rockers said they kept hearing the cat," said contractor David Best. "So they started tearing apart the walls and cutting holes in things looking for this cat."
Contractor Russell Evans thought maybe the cat was stuck somewhere in the basement, but then it became very clear what was happening. He and the other men felt they had to act.
"I call (my boss) and I'm like, 'I can hear the cat. It's in the concrete, I know it,'" Evans said. "My boss said to go ahead and cut the concrete up."
"That's when we know it's going to be expensive and hard to get at," Best added.
The men set to work, deciding they would each pitch in some money to cover the cost of repairing the floor. Soon enough, they saw a pair of eyes and reached in to pull out enough rock to get the kitten free. One ran out. They retrieved a second kitten and later, the superintendent spied a third.
They believe it was a mother and her litter of three kittens living below the floor. Two of the kittens have been adopted by workers, including Evans, who took in a gray kitten he calls "Crete," short for concrete.
The animals were severely malnourished and Crete has been left blind after spending close to two weeks in darkness.
"He can kind of see once in a while, but for the most part he's pretty blind, is what the doctor said," Evans said.
The third kitten and the mother are believed to have run off together. Evans said the two adopted kittens are doing well.
• A more routine rescue came Sunday morning when Don Belnap, an animal control officer for Salt Lake County Animal Services, set about rescuing baby ducks who had fallen into a storm drain in the Sugar House area.
"(I'm) fishing for ducks," Belnap said, flashlight in hand as he leaned over the storm drain in question. "Mom walked over it, babies fell through. We've got four babies out so far and the other one is still down in there."
Belnap said that if the mother is hit or doesn't return, other ducks will step in to help. Or Belnap will be there. These types of rescues are old hat for him.
"This happens every year," he said. "I go out, fishing for baby ducks and walk them out of harm's way."
Contributing: John Hollenhorst