Dramatic horse rescue attempt
By HANNAH ROSS
IF PROOF were ever needed of Chris Valle's dedication to horses, he would only have to recount his role in the dramatic rescue of a racehorse from the flooded stables at Lismore Turf Club on Thursday.
The 18-year-old track work rider put his life on the line to rescue the horse, which had been left locked in the stables overnight while the floodwaters rose around it.
Chris learned of the horse's plight when he ran into its trainer, Paddy Hancock, at Lismore police station on Thursday morning.
He and Paddy and a crew of SES volunteers rushed to launch a boat from near the Northern Rivers Hotel in North Lismore and were soon trying to negotiate their way through the flood to reach the stranded beast.
Once they made it to the stables, Chris would not even wait for a safety rope to be tied around him.
"You wouldn't believe how high the water was and he just jumped straight in and I thought, I can't leave him on his own," Paddy said.
The pair battled to unlock the gates and climb over the stable door to reach the horse, which was by then too terrified to be coaxed from the enclosure.
Meanwhile, Chris and Paddy were starting to suffer the effects of hypothermia and had to be dragged back into the boat and taken to hospital.
They had no choice but to leave the horse, but heard later it had made its way to high ground.
"I haven't stopped thinking about it and I think what I did was brave, really, but horses are my life so it was OK," Chris said.
Although Lismore police are investigating the incident and a number of other trainers plan to lodge a complaint with the RSPCA, horse owner Ian Crawford said he was just happy the horse was alive.
"I've been a resident here for 47 years and I've never seen floods come that quickly. I made a judgment that things would be all right until the morning and we were just completely caught out by the volume of water," Mr Crawford said.
The rescue of Mr Crawford's horse coincided that day with the rescue of five stock horses which had swum towards the race- course from a neighbouring paddock. The two incidents were not related, as reported in The Northern Star on Saturday. One of the stock horses had to be put down and another drowned while SES workers tried to tow it to safety, according to Lismore police.
Mr Crawford said he was now planning to name his rescued racehorse Head Above Water, Big Flood or Snorkeller.
"At least we know he will be good in the wet," he said.