How many people and pieces of equipment does it take to extricate a 1,400-pound Trakehner mare from a 4-foot-deep ditch? On Aug. 11 New Jersey residents discovered it could take three different fire departments, plus shovels, a backhoe, straps, airbags, and lots of manpower.

On that day Mare Olsen, owner of Gooseberry Farm in Harding, N.J., looked out her window toward the back pasture and saw only the brown legs of her 26-year-old mare, Lyra, sticking straight up in the air. "She was probably there (in that position) for maybe 30 minutes by the time Mare saw her," said Mare's husband, Richard Olsen.

After discovering the mare had fallen into a drainage canal that separates two pastures, Mare immediately called 911 for help. Ten minutes later, crews from three area fire departments arrived and began assessing the situation. One option was to lift the horse out of the ditch using a crane. but the couple did not like the idea of placing straps and hooks around their mare, who wasn’t thrashing or struggling.

The Olsens suggested digging parallel with the ditch so Lyra could roll over and off of her back. After about 30 minutes of digging, both manually and with a backhoe, the mare was able to roll over onto her side. The firefighters were then able to slip thin airbags, used to turn over cars that have flipped in accidents, under the mare to help her on her feet. Within an hour Lyra was back on all four feet, walking around–a little shaken, but in good shape.

"She didn't have a scratch on her," said Richard. "I think the fact that she's a Trakehner and they're calmer than most horses helped. She