When Steve Nadeau decided to go for a snowmobile ride on Monday afternoon, he never imagined he would encounter anything out of the ordinary. But as he rode along a trail near Pattee’s Pond in Winslow, something caught his attention.

“On my way back, something moved and caught my eye and I looked and said, ‘Oh my God, it’s a horse,” Nadeau said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Nadeau had stumbled across a 1,400-pound horse that had fallen through the ice on the pond and was trapped.

While hunting in the area earlier in the day, Nadeau had noticed horse tracks in the snow, but didn’t pay much attention to them.

“I thought, who is back here with a horse? But I blew it off I guess, and came back home, and out of the blue decided to go for a ride on my snowmobile,” Nadeau said.

When Nadeau discovered the trapped horse, he found it was submerged in freezing cold water.

“I went up to him, and the whole back of his body was stuck in the water and mud. I could only see his head and some of his neck sticking out of the ice,” Nadeau said.

Beau, a 13-year-old horse, had gone missing from his nearby pasture hours before Nadeau found him in the early afternoon. Beau is kept in an open pasture surrounded by an electric fence, and has lived there for the past 2.5 years, his owner said. He escaped by pushing through the electric fence at the edge of the pasture.

A notice posted on Winslow’s community page on Facebook at 9:23 a.m. included a security camera image of Beau passing through a backyard near North Reynolds Road in Winslow. The post’s author said the image was taken at 5:45 a.m. Beau’s owner said she was alerted he was missing at 11 a.m.

“Animal control called me, and I didn’t know he was gone because sometimes he goes into the barn,” she said. “So at first I hopped in the car to look for him, but then I went home, put on some warm clothes and hiked through the woods to follow his tracks.”

Beau’s owner, who asked not to be identified, said that she’s owned horses her entire life, but has never had one that maneuvered through an electric fence like Beau did. To prevent another escape attempt, she has ordered a stronger electric fence to install on her property.

The Waterville Regional Communications Center received the report of the horse trapped in the pond around 3:15 p.m. Waterville and Winslow firefighters then began orchestrating a rescue effort.

Waterville fire Chief Shawn Esler, left, watches as a city firefighter wearing a dry suit gets a ride on an all terrain vehicle to the scene where a horse reportedly was in water up to its neck in Pattee Pond off North Pond Road in Winslow late Monday afternoon. Winslow fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez, at right, speaks with another rescuer. David Leaming photo

When animal control told Beau’s owner around 3:30 p.m. that he had been found, she went to the pond and noted that the situation looked grim.

“I thought we may have to put him down right there,” she said. “When I arrived, the firemen told me to go back to my car while they worked on Beau. I think they didn’t know what was going to happen so they didn’t want me around.”

Winslow Fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez was not sure whether Beau would be able to make it out of the water alive.

“We didn’t have much time to get the horse out,” Rodriguez said Monday. “It would have succumbed if he was in there any longer.”

While Waterville and Winslow firefighters made their way to the horse trapped in the pond, Nadeau said he stayed by Beau’s side to make sure he was awake and did not slip into shock.

“Before they came I was trying to keep the horse alive,” Nadeau said. “I pulled his head up and rubbed his neck to keep him alive. By the time I found him he was shivering bad and going into shock. He was about to pass out and was on the verge of hypothermia.”

Steve Nadeau, left, and a couple of other men stand with Beau after he was rescued from the freezing water at Pattee’s Pond in Winslow on Monday. After discovering the horse in the water, Nadeau stayed with him until firefighters arrived to hoist him on to the ice. Photo courtesy of Steve Nadeau

Firefighters set up a command post at the end of Catfish Corner Road, about 300 yards from where Beau was trapped, and boarded snowmobiles and ATVs to get to the horse.

When firefighters arrived where the horse was trapped, they drove three metal stakes into the ice to create an anchor system, got into the water, wrapped webbing around Beau’s front legs and hauled him onto the ice using rescue rope just before 5 p.m.

Once out of the water, Beau rolled over onto his side, stood up on all four legs and was escorted off the frozen pond, something his owner didn’t expect to see.

“I thought he was a goner,” Beau’s owner said. “I didn’t expect him to survive. I mean, my boots got wet and my feet were starting to go numb. His legs and feet should have been completely frost bitten because that water was cold.”

Dr. Marilyn McMorran, a large animal veterinarian in Skowhegan, arrived at the pond just after Beau’s extraction from the water and was amazed by his lack of injuries.

“The horse did remarkably well,” McMorran said. “He could’ve been injured trying to get out of the pond. Aside from the frost bite he could’ve gotten cut or broken a leg. He’s very fortunate he wasn’t injured.”

According to Beau’s owner, without the help of the community and the firefighters, the situation would have ended very differently.

“I want to express my gratitude to everyone who was there” Beau’s owner said. “When I think about it, I start to cry because I’m so grateful for everyone who helped. From the people who put it on Facebook, to the people who came with blankets to rub him down, the firefighters, everyone was just so wonderful. Without them, we wouldn’t have found him.”

The response from the community is something Beau’s owner said she thinks is unique to the state of Maine.

“I’ve never lived in a community that would come forward and help like this,” Beau’s owner said. “I could never repay them. And this is what’s special about Maine I think. People help out their neighbors when they’re in trouble. I think that kind of community is lost in other parts of the country, but man, when things go wrong, the people in Maine know how to pull together. I know they helped Beau, but they really did something for me: They moved my heart.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Beau’s owner said he was in good condition and back to being his vivacious self.

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