Chugiak horse owner praises community effort after mud rescue

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CHUGIAK, Alaska (KTUU) - In Alaska, the dangers that can be found in the wilderness are readily discussed, with mention of bears, moose and tough topography and weather often at the forefront of the conversation.

For Michailia Massong, though, a simple walk along a trail - no bears or moose in sight - was what landed her and her best friend in an awfully precarious position.

"It was very, very scary," Massong said. "I was trying really hard to hold it together when she was in there."

The 'she' Massong was referring to is her 13-year-old horse Luna, who managed to get stuck in a Chugiak-area swamp a few days ago.

"We were just riding around on trails we ride on all the time," Massong said. "We stepped in a mud puddle, like usual, and all of a sudden she froze and then took off."

Luna and Massong, who happens to be Miss Rodeo Alaska 2017 and has been riding horses for 20 years or so, landed in a deep, boggy pool about 30 feet from the main trail they had been on.

"She was thrashing around," Massong said, "and I ran out there and grabbed her head and tried to get her better situated and see if I could help push her out. But she was in a bit too deep at that point."

While Massong was able to jump off of Luna before being entangled in roots and other threats of nature, Luna - weighing in at more than 1,000 pounds - was completely stuck.

"At one point, she closed her eyes and she almost quit breathing on us," Massong said. "She was really lethargic and shocked and not really moving too good."

This story, though, doesn't end there, in large part because of Good Samaritans from across the community who answered Massong's distress calls.

"We just had so many people I had never met before just show up when they heard that call for help," she said.

Local fire and rescue crews, neighbors and even total strangers from well outside of town flocked to Massong and Luna's spot on the trail to help free the horse by hoisting her out of the mud.

"Horse rescue is not something we usually do," said Chris Steeves, an area firefighter. "But we built a pad to put the excavator down in the mud, and then we used fire hose to rig up a harness to put around the horse's chest."

After three hours or so, Luna was freed from her boggy trap.

"Everyone just rallied together," Massong said. "They're all heroes. They all saved her life."

Because of that teamwork, Luna is back home, safe and sound.

"I'm amazed," Massong said. "That's a God thing. I had so many angels showing up in flesh form, saving her... She had angels watching over her in the other realm, making sure she didn't break anything.

"It is a miracle," she continued. "She's healing up good now. Very happy to be alive and safe, thanks to our amazing community."

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