It was October of 2006 when a deluge of unexpected rainfall flooded an area of rural land in the northern part of the Netherlands. The flooding on one ranch left over 100 horses stranded on a small patch of higher ground for days, and a rescue attempt would have to be made or the horses would perish.
Some horses had already drowned in the flood.
Nineteen horses had already drowned or died of exposure or exhaustion.
The first rescue attempt by firefighters and the army was able to recover 20 horses before rescue boats got stuck in the sand.
Thankfully, among those rescued were the smallest and most vulnerable foals. But time was running short and the circumstances became more desperate with each passing hour.
A plea for help was made on a horse forum.
There was hope when, after three days, the waters began to recede, creating the opportunity for a different approach.
A plea was made on a horse forum for experienced riders whose horses were not afraid of water. Six female riders aged between 19 and 40 responded—Susan, Micky, Antje, Hinke, Christina, and Fardow.
Their mission was to ride out into the water on horseback and attempt to lure the horses back to shore.
But what dangers lurked under the water? There were barbed wire fences, debris, and drainage ditches—all of which could injure the horses and their riders. The water was also bitterly cold, and another storm was coming.
After much observation and evaluation of the circumstances, the riders chose the shallowest route possible, intentionally trying to avoid the submerged barbed wire fencing.
They planned their path by planting submerged stakes and chains as guides. It had been three days and the rescuers knew there may not be many more chances to save the remaining herd.
The women set out to attempt the lure the horses back to dry land.
As the six women rode out across the 650 yards of shallow water, onlookers anxiously watched from the shore. Upon reaching the small “island,” several of the rescuers dismounted and came behind the horses to corral them and keep them moving in the right direction.
Meanwhile, another rescuer took the lead—amazingly, the horses began to follow her into the water and back to safety. It appeared that the plan was working.
All the horses made it safely back to dry land, apart from one horse that was so exhausted it almost couldn’t leave the island.
The final horse was later hand-led by firefighters, and veterinarians were on hand to treat the exhausted horse as soon as it made it ashore, The Associated Press reported.
As the front horses reached further inland, their trot turned into a full gallop as they topped a hill. They were so happy to be back on dry land.
It was a beautiful sight!
The brave life-saving efforts of the six women were honored by their government. And one woman, Norma Miedema, who was the first to raise the alarm and do all she could to help the horses, should also be honored for her dedication.
The rescue became known as The Great Netherlands Horse Rescue, and was widely covered in the press around the world.