WASHINGTON — It took three veterinarians and a dozen other workers two hours to free a 10-year-old horse after its leg was caught in
a truck grille at the start of the inauguration parade Jan. 20.
"I've never seen a more freakish accident in all the time I've been doing this," says Lt. Col. John Stott, a veterinarian
and reservist with the U.S. Army Veterinary Service who has watched over animals involved in the inaugural parade since Ronald
Reagan's first term.
The horse, an Appaloosa named Mouse, was positioned in a parade staging area near a pickup truck being used by a fire department
in the parade. When someone opened the door of the truck, the horse was startled and kicked out, says Stott. That was when
Mouse's leg got wedged between the front bumper and an electric winch mounted on the truck.
When he got the call about what had happened, Stott says he was prepared to have to euthanize the horse.
"I'm still amazed he didn't break his leg," Stott says, adding the horse was smart enough to lie quietly.
Assisted by two other army veterinarians, Capt. Amos Peterson and Capt. Jessica Morehouse, Stott says Mouse was put under
general anesthesia. The veterinarians and several other workers with the Humane Society of the United States and equine groups
then hoisted the horse using only manpower and rope to free his leg.
About two hours later, they revived Mouse, got him on his feet and, with the Days End Farm Rescue equine ambulance, transported
him to the Prince George's County Equestrian Center. Morehouse accompanied Mouse, Stott says. The horse was treated for minor
lacerations and is doing well.
Getting the ambulance in and out wasn't difficult, because they had clearance before the parade, Stott says. The hardest part
of the day is just keeping the horses happy in the cold weather, since they have to basically stand still from about 8 a.m.
to 2 p.m.
"We're generally standing there just tranquilizing horses," Stott says, recalling that a 23-year-old horse in President Bill
Clinton's inaugural parade fell ill with colic earlier in the day, but recovered in time to participate.
Neither of the events, however, slowed the parade, Stott says, but adds that they sometimes add fuel to animal-rights calls
that horses be left out of parades.
"But I can't imagine in America having a parade without horses," Stott says.