Helicopter rescues horse stranded on sandbar

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March 17, 2010 4:34:59 AM PDT
It's not every day you see a horse fly.

But with the greatest of ease, a heavy-duty helicopter plucked a mustang named Colorado off a western Arizona river sandbar Tuesday morning, reuniting him with his owner.

Colorado spent five days stranded on the sandbar along the Gila River about 36 miles southwest of Phoenix.

The Gila's swift-moving current prevented an earlier rescue and the horse was trapped on the sandbar with a few bushes and trees to munch on. His rider was one of three people rescued after they tried to ride in the river Friday.

A veterinarian prepped the 900-pound horse for the flight Tuesday by injecting him with a tranquilizer before placing him in a harness with blinders on.

Once he was airborne, Colorado flew effortlessly and never bucked, his black mane and tail blowing in the wind.

As the helicopter gently let Colorado down, the horse's back legs buckled a bit before he straightened up.

Colorado's owner Vickie Eshenbaugh and volunteers were there to greet the flying mustang's aerial arrival about a half mile from where he was stranded.

"He's doing good," Eshenbaugh told a television station in Phoenix. "I always wanted a Pegasus."

Veterinarian Dr. Julie Lewis of the Southwest Equine Medical and Surgical Center in Phoenix said Colorado was well-behaved during the flight despite the loud noise from the helicopter.

"He did great. He stood quiet the whole time. Flew quiet. I didn't see him spinning," Lewis said.

Anonymous donors paid for the rescue.


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