Gisela Alvarez jumped off her horse just in time.
Spooked by a black construction tarp blowing in the wind, her male quarter horse wound up in a Southwest Miami-Dade canal Sunday morning, struggling to stay afloat.
That’s when Alvarez’s friend Rafael Rodgriguez, who was riding on another horse, pulled out a rope and managed to help it keep its head up above water until rescue could arrive.
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“The horse would’ve drowned if they didn’t come,” Rodriguez said.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Scott Mullin said it took a team of about 14 people — including a veterinarian and trained large-animal rescuers — to free the horse from the canal near Southwest 167th Avenue and Southwest 195th Street.
“It was just exhausted,” said Mullin, who went in the canal and managed to help the horse swim upstream, where rescuers were waiting on the bank.
The team used webbing to help the horse up the steep canal bank and reunite with his owner.
Mullin said that when dealing with large animals — including horses that weigh 1,200-1,500 pounds — there are certain techniques that large-animal rescuers learn to prevent the animal and rescuer from getting hurt.
“The good news here is no one got hurt,” Mullin said, adding that animal rescues are quite common in South Florida. “Most people think of Miami as a concrete jungle, but there are still lots of rural areas where there are farms, horses and cows.”
El Nuevo Herald staff writer Ingrid Hoyos contributed to this report.