A horse named Oriana is alive and well following a harrowing rescue on the Pacific Crest Trail. OregonLive reported on the event and captured the rescue operation that ultimately saved the mare.
On Saturday, August 20, equestrians Jessica and Dirk Mandt of Beavercreek, Oregon, were walking a section of trail alongside a friend named Laura Salo and their five horses when they encountered a series of fallen trees. The group was just south of Bridge of the Gods, a scenic suspension bridge above the Columbia River.
After navigating one section of fallen trees, the group encountered a blocked section of trail and decided to backtrack—that’s when disaster struck. Oriana’s stirrup caught on a log, causing her to lose her balance on a steep and exposed section of trail.
“I was in a tug-of-war, holding as hard as I could,” Jessica Mandt told OregonLive. She was unable to steady the horse, and Oriana tumbled down a steep grade, her body smashing against trees and branches. According to Jessica Mandt, Oriana’s colt, Fuego, cried as his mother disappeared.
The humans and horses were shaken up by the disastrous fall, and they continued past the dangerous section a nearby clearing, where they set up camp, as it was late in the day. They intended to check on Oriana the next morning. “We spent all night and the next morning feeling that a disaster happened, and we weren’t going to come back from it,” Jessica Mandt said.
The following morning, the Mandts and Salo hiked to an area 100 feet below where Oriana fell but did not see the mare. They fixed ropes and dropped an additional 133 feet farther into the canyon. That’s when they saw the horse squeezed between a log and the hillside. She had suffered scratches and bruises during the fall but was otherwise unharmed.
A log had stopped Oriana from tumbling further down the hillside—a lucky landing on such treacherous terrain.
But Oriana was stuck in rugged terrain, and a rescue seemed impossible. The Mandts and Salo took turns ascending the ropes to their campsite to bring water and food back to the horse.
The trio called search and rescue, and the SOS was received by the Hoodland Fire District early Sunday morning. Brian Henrichs, division chief of the district met with firefighters from the Forest Service and volunteers from the Oregon Humane Society. The team hiked in from the base of the canyon and began cutting a 2,100-foot passageway through the brush and trees to the animal.
“I was really shocked she wasn’t more injured,” Henrichs said.
The crew worked until approximately 4:15 P.M., when they were able to free Oriana. A local veterinarian named Jennifer Posey arrived later to find the horse standing on the trail and in good spirits. “She looked amazing for having fallen that far,” Posey said.
Jessican Mandt called the ordeal a “healing miracle.”
“I’m trying hard to feel the happiness,” she said. “If you believe in spirituality at all, it seems like an amazing testament to what’s possible.”