Locals plead with all horse owners to fence off septic tanks

A local horse owner is calling on all horse owners to ensure their septic tanks are secured after a harrowing experience last week.

Emily Atkins' 10-year-old paint bred mare Roo fell into the septic tank on the Atkins property with the mare miraculously recovering from the ordeal with only minor injuries.

"I've lived here my entire life and never once have any of the horses ever gone near it," Emily said.

"I've always been going to fence it off, but it's one of those things that was always put off."

Emily had just put her one-year-old daughter down for a sleep when her fiance stuck his head out the back door to see what the dogs were barking at, what he found was Roo barely able to keep her head above the septic.

"She was thrashing about, trying to get herself out, but she just couldn't get out," Emily said.

The chestnut mare, with her name spelled out on her face, was wearing winter rugs when she fell in, the rugs and the contents of the tank dragged her down and kept trying to suck her in.

Emily acting quickly dialed the vet with one hand while attaching Roo's halter to her head with the other.

"She had her feet up against the side of the tank so Matt and I tried to help leverage her out, but she just couldn't get there," Emily said.

Local veterinarian Dr Nicole McKenzie flew out to the Atkins property and sedated the mare who was not only in danger of going into shock, but in danger of injuring herself and pulling herself further into the septic.

"I've got a septic tank where my horses are," Nicole said.

"I've put chairs on it to try and deter the horses, but after this I'm definitely going to fence it off."

Emily called Roo's old owner, Rebecca Hewson, to come and help to keep the mare calm while they worked quickly to try and get her out.

"I was holding Roo's head so if she did thrash about I could keep her above the sludge," Rebecca said.

"I was supposed to be in my afternoon editorial meeting and since I was a little busy, I snapped a picture and sent it to the guys so they would know why I wasn't there.

"I was completely freaking out on the inside, I felt completely helpless and Roo just kept looking at me like she was asking me what was going on, yet on the outside everyone was really calm and collected while we all worked together to get her out."

Fortunately for both the mare and Emily Ian Butt was working on the property next door with a tractor and was able to fly down the road and into the paddock.

After a struggle to get straps around her and a couple of failed attempts where the straps slipped, Roo was finally pulled from the septic and lowered to the ground.

"She just laid there for about two minutes catching her breath while we took the straps off her," Emily said.

"Then she just bounced to her feet and took a couple of steps," Rebecca said.

"I don't know who was more shocked, her or us."

As soon as she was on her feet Emily and Rebecca got to work cleaning her as Nicole assessed her injuries.

"In the end she wasn't too worse for wear," Nicole said.

Roo suffered a puncture to her right hind hock, two flaps of skin that needed to be cut off the following day on her right front knee and her left pastern and a few other cuts and scrapes.

After she was cleaned, given a huge dose of antibiotics and a dose of Bute (horse painkillers), the septic had already been fenced off.

"I pulled the rugs that she'd been wearing out of the tank," Rebecca said.

"I could barely drag them out they were so heavy, so I'd hate to think what would have happened if she'd fully gone under."

The well loved mare was very happy to be reunited with her other horse-friends, walking to the fence line to greet them.

After Roo was out of the septic, the biggest concern was for her health, with the open wounds being exposed to the septic there was a chance she would contract an infection, however thanks to the antibiotics and Emily thoroughly flushing the wounds regularly and religiously, by the next morning Roo was almost back to her usual cheeky self, even giving Emily the run around when she tried to catch her.

By the weekend Roo was back to frolicking around with her pals, even if she was a little stiff and feeling very sorry for herself.

Since the incident both Emily and Rebecca were shocked by the number of people who have told them that they have gone through a similar incident or know of someone who has done the same.

"It is certainly something that I'm never going to forget and it is definitely something I don't want other horse owners to ever have to go through," Emily said.

"Fencing off the septic was always something that we put off, it wasn't a high priority.

"Make it a priority. Get it done today, right now, don't risk it, it is not worth it."

Rebecca agreed with Emily's sentiments.

"After living through this, after seeing the panic and confusion in Roo's eyes, after feeling utterly helpless at being able to get her out of there I'm urging anyone who has a septic tank, be it covered in plastic, cement or tin to please, please fence it off.

"Roo surviving this is a miracle, had it been a bigger or smaller horse, a horse not as chilled as Roo, the ending could have very easily had a different outcome."