Police said it was a miracle no-one was hurt on Monday, 5 September, when a racehorse escaped from the Queanbeyan Racecourse and bolted through a fence running towards busy Canberra Avenue.
The horse had just finished a race when it took off, eventually finding itself heading straight towards a metre high concrete crash and sound barrier. In its bid to stop, it slid sideways on to its back and found itself wedged between the barriers.
An officer from Queanbeyan Fire and Rescue Service, who was on his way home from work, was first on the scene just after 2 pm.
After calling for back-up, Monaro Police District, Bungendore State Emergency Service and Queanbeyan-Palerang Council crews along with vets from the Canberra Equine Hospital attended.
The officer-in-charge at Monaro Police District, Inspector Keith Price, who was on the scene, said it was a miracle no-one, human or animal, was hurt in the incident.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said. “How that horse didn’t get hit by a car I don’t know.
“The horse got itself wedged between the two walls, it would only have been about a metre wide.”
He said, after initial investigation, the plan was to cut through the concrete barriers using specialist SES equipment from the Bungendore crew but then that was deemed impossible.
Inspector Price said, after discussing the situation with all the rescue teams and vets on site, it was decided to use a harness sling to lift the horse up.
By this time, he said, the horse’s trainer had arrived and the animal had calmed down enough for the vets to assess its condition. It was then sedated prior to the rescue attempt.
The sling used was designed to lift the horse out vertically, specifically for use in small spaces. Then a Queanbeyan-Palerang Council backhoe was used to lift the horse out and it was taken to nearby Queanbeyan Showground for a fuller examination.
“It really was a fantastic team effort by all involved,” Inspector Price said. “Great communication all around.”
Bungendore SES Commander Peter Adrian, with deputies Jodie Durrant and Steve Crook, were also called in because of their Large Animal Rescue (LAR) training and equipment.
“It certainly was something to see this horse running though an urban area,” Mr Adrian said. “The fact it ran for about 2km up a dual carriageway, on the right side, was remarkable. How he got across Canberra Avenue, we’ll never know.”
He said he understood the horse had just finished a race when it was spooked by something at the track – and just took off.
Mr Adrian also attributed the success of the rescue to a joint effort by all the rescue services, saying the LAR training by the SES was invaluable in such situations.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Queanbeyan Fire and Rescue Service also praised the teamwork shown, saying all crews worked together to help extricate the horse from the difficult position it had got itself into.
“After several hours the horse was released into the care of veterinary staff and, much to everyone’s surprise, was up and about walking later in the afternoon,” it said.
It was later treated for minor injuries by vets but reportedly was not seriously hurt.
Queanbeyan Ave was closed from about two hours until 4 pm while the delicate rescue operation was under way.