The following story was covered by Tanya Laing Gahr in the mid-winter 2009 issue of SnoRiders magazine. We were pleased to see that this heartwarming rescue has also been the subject of a new film, called The Horses of McBride, which will be premiering Sunday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CTV. You can also find out more about the movie on CTV.ca, the CTV App, and the CTV Mobile channel.
When two horses were lost and abandoned by an Alberta man in the Mount Renshaw area near McBride, B.C., it was assumed that the horses would soon die of starvation or exposure. In fact, when visiting sledders spotted the horses in early December, they thought the animals looked too far gone to be saved.
However, snowmobilers in the McBride area refused to let those horses die without doing everything they could to locate them and rescue them; but no one in town knew where precisely to look. Before the horses were found, most people in the town knew they were somewhere in the Mount Renshaw area, but there had been few confirmed sightings of them.
Glen Daykin is the manager at Spindrift Power Sports Ltd. in McBride. The business was the hub of the rescue effort, with local residents calling in to ask how they could help. Daykin said the horses’ owner, Alberta lawyer Frank MacKay, had been involved in an earlier search for the animals in December but assumed them to be too close to death to save. MacKay allegedly left the horses—Sundance and Belle—with some grain and Gatorade and said goodbye. When Daykin heard from those sledders who had accompanied MacKay, he wasn’t discouraged, nor were other residents of McBride.
Sledders to the rescue
“We had people going up trying to find them in that area, but the weather had gotten really poor,” said Daykin. “Some snowmobilers actually got stuck up there one night and some locals went up to help them get out the next day . . . and there were the horses.”
Sledders Logan Jeck and Leif Gunster were the men who found the horses again and they, along with several other snowmobilers, spearheaded the effort to rescue them. Spindrift Power Sports became a main communication centre. And members of the community turned out in droves to help. Even those who didn’t own snowmobiles were renting them from Daykin in order to get to the site where the horses were and help dig them out.
The horses were found on December 15th, 2008 and were walked to safety and refuge on December 23rd—eight days of backbreaking work by groups of volunteers from five to 15 or more.
“(The volunteers) had about a kilometre of trail that they had to dig,” said Daykin. “It was really cold here and the snow wouldn’t pack down.”
The horses were stranded behind drifts of snow from six to eight feet high, with the closest trail more than a kilometre away. With shovels and spades, the sledders dug. Blankets, fresh hay and water were brought up to the horses each day to keep them going through the bitter weather, which dropped down to -40° C several times.
“The snowmobilers were going up to dig every day, even though some of them were getting frostbite,” said Daykin. “There are some extremely awesome people in McBride.”
The BC SPCA has submitted a report to Crown counsel in Prince George recommending charges of animal cruelty be laid against MacKay.