Two horses dramatically rescued from icy Pennsylvania lake

/ CBS News

East Strousberg, Monroe County, Pa. — While we've often heard of people or wildlife falling through ice, it was a pair of draft horses in the Pocono Mountains region of Pennsylvania that needed to be saved Saturday morning. Their ordeal became a real life or death struggle, reports CBS Scranton affiliate WYOU-TV.

"I saw two horse heads sticking up out of the ice. That was the only thing you saw," said Blue Ridge Hook & Ladder Fire Company Chief Leon Clapper.

Two Clydesdale horses, Gunther and Wilhelm, each weighing more than 1,500 pounds, were immersed in the frigid water of Pine Grove Lake at Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm.

Wilhelm and Gunther had broken out of their enclosure and fallen through the ice into ten feet of water, about a football field length from shore.

First responders and community members pull two draft hourses from Icy Pocono Mountain lake in Pennsylvania on February 16, 2019 WYOU-TV

Clapper said, "You've got to trench your way to get them back — because of the weight, there was no way we were going to pick them up, put them on the ice and slide them out in a boat."

But emergency responders used a boat to cut a rescue path through the ice, then secured ropes and bands around the horses to begin pulling them to shore.

As word spread about the horses' dilemma, the community responded. "Some of the other neighbors were horse people so they went and got heaters, their blankets and stuff like that. It was, you know, one hell of a team effort," said Clapper.

With Wilhelm and Gunther near exhaustion after about an hour in the icy water, both were finally pulled out of the lake. They were then cloaked in warm blankets and on firm ground their ordeal.

Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm Marketing and Special Events Director Deborah DiPasquale said, "I haven't met a horse that if they want to get out of somewhere, they can't find a way to do it. They're little Houdinis!"

Little Houdinis who, thanks to a very big assist, were safe and sound.

"You always wonder when you get here and you're first on the scene and you see that, if it's going to be a tragedy," said Clapper. "And you saw the two horses walk away. It's a hell of a good feeling."

Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm Executive Director Katherine Muller told Eyewitness News both Wilhelm and Gunther wanted to eat right away which they did. A horse vet administered intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

Both were recovering Sunday, WYOU said.

"The boys are on timeout. They are grounded. No after-hour romping. No girlfriends, no cellphones. You know, the typical way you ground an 18-year-old-boy," Katherine Muller, executive director of Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm kidded.

Muller jokes about it now, but Gunther and Wilhelm gave the farm quite a scare.

:Most men are tough but it was very emotional when I saw them out there and just felt a little helpless," said Quiet Valley Farm Manager Milton Mosier.

"For a moment there, we thought we were just going to have to watch them slip away and have to retrieve bodies and when we realized we could do something, and get them out of there, we were gung-ho just to get whatever we needed to … get them out of there," recalled Hannah Franko, Quiet Valley Farm volunteer and board member.

Wilhelm is a little worse for wear. He got stitched up and has an irritated eye.

But Muller said both horses are in good health.

Mosier said the farm will be adding more wiring and making other changes to try to prevent such an incident from recurring.

"They pushed through where I didn't think they would be able to do it. They had wire up. And they pushed the gate open. Oh yeah. We will be doing work," Mosier said.

Veterinarians will keep tabs on Gunther and Wilhelm for the next few weeks.

First published on February 18, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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