WINFIELD — Town Marshal Dan Ball’s day didn’t start out quite as he expected Wednesday morning.
About 7:30 a.m., police received a phone call from a concerned Winfield resident in the 8400 block of 101st Avenue, reporting that one of his horses was stuck in a tree.
“The owner had gone out to feed the horse and discovered it was wedged in between the trunks of a tree. When I showed up, he looks at me and goes ‘Did you bring a chainsaw?’ ” Ball said with a chuckle.
The owner had already tried to push the horse through the divided tree but had no luck saving the animal. When Ball, along with Lake County Officer Brian Perez, arrived, the horse “was weak and in bad shape.”
“The horse collapsed at one point. We thought we were going to lose him,” Ball said.
A neighbor arrived with a chainsaw, and the group “carefully and methodically” began cutting branches and pulling on the tree trunks, hoping to get it lose enough for the horse to escape.
“I just kept cutting more away, cutting more away,” Ball said. “A couple of times I had to stop and warm up my fingers. I couldn’t feel a thing, it was so cold.”
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Temperatures in Northwest Indiana hovered around minus 20 early Wednesday, and wind chills ranged from 44 to 51 below zero.
After about 45 minutes, Ball was able to pull the second trunk loose just enough to allow the horse to get on its back legs and push itself free.
After stumbling a little bit, the horse was strong enough to walk back to the barn for its breakfast.
“I can honestly say this is the first time in my 31 years of law enforcement that I have ever cut a horse out of a tree,” Ball said.
Monica Ball, Dan Ball's wife, posted about the marshal's early-morning rescue on Facebook, catching attention from community members.
"I just feel so bad about all those who have to be out in this weather serving in all capacities," Monica Ball told The Times.
"We oftentimes take things for granted and don’t realize how our actions affect others. Thankfully we have these individuals like police, fire and emergency personnel who are there when we need them — whoever we are!"