A Thoroughbred yearling was rescued from a sinkhole Saturday on a Fayette County farm.
Veterinarians from Hagyard Equine Medical Institute spent hours digging out the colt, who is recovering and is expected to be fine.
Dr. Nathan Slovis said workers at the farm, whose owners don't want to be identified, discovered that a yearling was missing Saturday morning and went searching the large pasture.
"They noticed a little hole and looked down, and lo and behold, the yearling was down in there," Slovis said Tuesday.
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The yearling was about 5 feet down a hole that was about 8 feet in diameter at the bottom but only a few feet at the top.
Slovis speculated that sometime during the night, the yearling slipped into the hole, rear end first, and then couldn't pull himself out.
That doesn't happen every day, but it isn't exactly rare, Slovis said, which is why he and other Hagyard vets are trained in large-animal rescues of that sort and have worked with local fire departments on the techniques involved.
"We encounter this at least once or twice a year," Slovis said. "You can't just cowboy up, go 'yee-haw,' throw a noose around its neck and yank it out." That could damage an animal's spine or cause other injuries, he said.
You also can't send anyone down into the hole. "That's too dangerous," Slovis said.
Instead, rescuers dug a hole nearby and then hand-dug a ramp down to the sinkhole. Once they could reach the horse, they anesthetized him and enlarged the hole, secured a fire hose around the horse's torso and, using a method called the forward assist, dragged the colt out.
After an estimated four to six hours underground, the colt was suffering from shock and was dehydrated but was otherwise uninjured.
"He's a little sore," Slovis said.
The colt was given fluids and is recovering at the Hagyard animal hospital, Slovis said, and should be going home this week.
Sinkholes, including the gigantic one that swallowed eight classic cars at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green in February 2014, are common throughout this area.
"We hear about one at least once a year," Slovis said.
And with all the recent rains, he wasn't surprised to hear about one now.
The field where the foal fell into the hole had been harrowed recently, so it had been closely examined not long ago, he said.
"This just opened up," he said.