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Prairie Pulse

Riggins helicopter company to the rescue

RIGGINS – American society has been aptly dubbed a throw-away culture.

No longer need something, throw it away. No longer want something, throw it away.

It extends beyond material goods. Shelters overflow with unwanted and discarded pets.

Recently, Valley County residents rallied to the assistance of two such unwanted animals. Two horses were found, and believed to be abandoned, in severe conditions at 7,700 feet on Payette National Forest’s Boulder Mountain.

Idaho Horse Rescue (IHR) launched a plan to remove the animals to safety. The team eventually extended into Idaho County, where Riggins residents utilized their skills and equipment for a rescue effort.

Salmon River Helicopters in Riggins typically utilizes their fleet in the service of powerline construction and firefighting, among a host other services. Recently, staff was asked to take on a new responsibility - one that could potentially save a life.

Cindy and Guy Carlson, owners, were contacted by Robert Bruno, IHR president, to assist the stranded horses. Cody, Carlson's son, was asked if he would pilot the mission.

“I’d seen something on the news about the horse,” Cody said. “My dad scheduled the rescue with Ryan Miller.”

Cody said things moved swiftly once Miller, a Valley County snowmobiler, reached out to the company. The initial call came in about three to four days before the actual transport, Cody said. IHR coordinated a tranquilizer and harness for a horse, watched the weather and consulted with veterinarians on appropriate handling. Once everything fell into place, Miller called Cody and advised the transport was a go for the next morning, Jan. 24.

“He called at 10 a.m. and I was there by 10:45 a.m.,” Cody said. “We fly lots of stuff, but never anything alive.”

He says this, not flippantly at all. While he admits to a nervousness about the transport, there is a confidence in his voice that speaks to his training and expertise as a pilot.

His primary concern, he said, was not to drop the horse. The goal was safe transport allowing for the horse to be successfully rehabilitated by Bruno.

“I went slow with the horse because of the cold,” Cody said.

Cody explained that the mix of the aircraft's elevation and wind chill in the air, could pose a danger to the animal. He wanted to ensure the animal arrived before the tranquilizer wore off, but also wouldn’t suffer ill effects from the cold air.

“Everything went good. My job was easy,” he said. “It was the guys on the ground that had the tough job.”

The day of the rescue, only one of the two horses was found and transported. Upon arrival, the horse was named Ryat after two of the rescuers, Ryan and Pat Morrel.

A video of Cody flying his red Huey, a UH-1F helicopter, in for the rescue can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/IdahoHorseRescue/.

Since the rescue, Salmon River Helicopters has continued to assist IHR. Kathy Carlson recently flew McCall Fire Department personnel to search for the second horse. Working with a thermal imaging camera, the crew flew in a grid at low altitudes from where Ryat was removed.

Unfortunately, there have been no sightings of the second white horse since Jan. 16. Should the horse be spotted, Cody said he’s game for another rescue lift.

“We’d have no problem doing that again,” he said.

Laurie Chapman writes about the people, places and events bringing the prairie to life in the weekly blog, Prairie Pulse. If you have suggestion, contact Laurie by email at lchapman@idahocountyfreepress.com or by phone at 208-983-1200.

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