In the alps of British Columbia, the winters are long and cold. The snow cover is 6 feet of powder, for months at a time. So if you think of how two abandoned horses could firstly, survive in those conditions for 4 weeks, and then be rescued and walked out of their snowy prison in 8 days, you can appreciate the effort that the rescuers put in. The Rescue of Belle and Sundance is a heartwarming true story of the rescue of these two abandoned pack horses, left behind in the mountains by an inexperienced trail rider, and close to death when they were found.
The story of the horses and their rescue is told by Swiss-born journalist Birgit Stutz, who is now a Canadian horse rancher, high up in those same mountains. By happenstance, the story of two horses alone on the mountain – seen in autumn and then again in winter – reached her ears, and as a horse lover and animal rescue worker herself she could not leave this story to its probable end. She pursued the tale of the horses to find out where they had last been seen, and pestered local snowmobile riders – or sledders – into riding up to see if they could find them. The horses were found, heads down, nose to tail, dull-eyed and listless. Their hip and shoulder bones were standing out, and they had gnawed at each other’s tails in hopes of getting a bit of protein to stave off starving to death. The first volunteers to find them had to face the heartbreaking decision of whether to euthanise them, or to feed them and attempt a rescue.
Thankfully they decided on the latter option, and the story continues into a description of how the rescue party – made of volunteers from the town, local sledders, and officers of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – shovelled a six-foot deep, 3-foot wide, 1.5 km long trench to get the horses to freedom. Behind the scenes, there were plenty of support crew as well, with townspeople supplying horse feed, tools, fuel and food for nothing, not to mention the time involved in finding out whose horses they were and following up on media coverage. This true story will absolutely warm your heart, and make you wish you live in a community that is as caring as that of McBride, British Columbia.
Available now: Random House RRP$19.95