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Horses Make Progress After Deadly Trailer Crash

Horse Trailer Accident Follow Up

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Six horses that were injured after the trailer they were riding in crashed in Santa Barbara County are making steady progress in their recovery.

Eight horses were riding in a seven-horse-capacity trailer early Friday morning when the driver failed to negotiate a tight curve on Old San Marcos Road south of State Route 154. The trailer hit the shoulder and flipped on its side.

There was a massive and quick response to the accident. Firefighters, CHP officers, deputies from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, Santa Barbara Animal Services, the Santa Barbara Humane Society, and three area veterinarians all showed up to help. The first veterinarian on scene was Dr. Karen Blumenshine who got the call just after 7 a.m. She said, "They got into action right away. Everyone worked as a team and it couldn't be done without all these agencies working together."

The horses had been thrown to the side of the trailer in the crash. One of the horses was stuck under a divider and her head was positioned at the edge of the window. She was in jeopardy of suffocating. One of the rescuers held her head in his hands for two hours to relieve the pressure. Blumenshine said, "One of the young men that was one of the first responders is the unsung hero in this whole event. The head and neck of the horse can weigh 100 to 200 pounds. He stood there for a couple of hours holding that head up."

One of the next veterinarians on scene was Dr. Bruce Kuesis who came upon the crash during a morning bike ride. Kuesis said,  "I was on call that morning and I decided to go for a bike ride. I was riding up Old San Marcos and my pager went off. I looked for a place to pull over and then saw the trailer and knew pretty much what the call was about."

Kuesis sprung into action too and has nothing but praise for the other responders. Kuesis said, "I would like to thank everyone that was there spontaneously and for pitching in. I really felt that people who knew horses well and didn't know horses at all, did their best. As tragic as it is, as bad of a situation as it was, I really feel that this is a good outcome. We're going to have horses that survive because of them."

One of the first horses pulled out of the trailer was 12-year-old Ravel. The horse was on its way to Amapola Boarding Stables just down the road from the crash. Ravel was coming all the way from Fresno to meet his potential new family and be reunited with a sibling. His new caregiver Chalan Kochis said, "I own his sister. We were looking for a second horse. They were nice enough to let him come down on trial for a few months and lease him for a bit.  So I hadn't even met him yet. I had just seen pictures and video. So we arranged a horse transportation company to bring him down."

Kochis said when she learned about the crash, she rushed to the scene and found Ravel waiting. "He was the last horse in the trailer so he was the luckiest out of them all. So we actually walked all the way from the top of San Marcos Road to the stable with all those fire trucks coming up and all the chaos. He walked calmly down the road, like he just kind of knew what he had to do. It was pretty miraculous."

Two horses didn't survive the crash. One died of its injuries at the scene. The other had to be euthanized. Five horses were taken to Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Clinic in Los Olivos. Two of those horses, Feathers and Asia, were in critical condition. But, two days after the crash, video shows them walking to their ICU stalls after grazing on fresh grass outside. They are being cared for by Dr. Erin Byrne and Dr. Doug Herthel. Feathers and Asia are said to be stabilizing, but are still in ICU stables. Doctors say there is a long recovery ahead, but their progress is steady. The three other horses that were brought to the clinic are in stable condition with minor injuries.

Kochis says Ravel is sore and stiff, but is slowly getting his stride back. Her children Ava and Chase are bonding with him. "He's very nice. He got used to this barn. When he came here, he had a scratch on his leg, scratches on his back and on his mouth. But, now he's started to heal and getting a lot better. He's a lot better now," Ava said.  

Kochis says Ravel would make a great addition to their family and is surprised at how mellow he is just days after the traumatic crash. "It's a big step purchasing an animal. But, just how he's handled this whole situation says everything about him."

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