Two years after a near tragic incident in the Town of Pine River, 13-year-old Arabian/Quarter horse “Pepsi” has come a long way, thanks to love, dedication and a whole lot of patience on behalf of her owner Susan Weiland of Merrill.
In September of 2014, the Merrill Foto News reported the story of Pepsi and Weiland’s perilous experience in crossing a swift and swollen creek in Pine River Township.
The afternoon of Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 began for Susan as many other afternoons before; visiting her horse stables near Hillview Road in the Town of Pine River. That afternoon, Weiland picked Pepsi as her riding partner.
“We had come to a creek and attempted to cross,” Weiland explains, “but due to all the rain prior to that day, it wasn’t a creek anymore. The water had become very deep and came up to my hips. So to be safe, I dismounted from Pepsi and led her by her rope. Normally she doesn’t follow me into the water. But for some reason, that day she decided to,” Weiland adds.
That is when things took a downhill plunge for Weiland and her beloved steed, literally.
Within seconds, Pepsi was up to her shoulders in water and began to panic.
“As she panicked, she pulled her halter and bridle off and went under for the first time. She started swimming toward the Pine River, which was about 30 yards away. I was still in a safe position, so I swam after her and tried to grab for her. Since she had lost her bridle and halter, I had nothing to grab for but her mane. I lost my grip and when she turned around I tried to grab her again, this time by her tail. But I just couldn’t hold on.”
Weiland soon found herself and Pepsi washed into the very swift Pine River. Weiland was able to pull herself ashore, but watched helplessly as Pepsi was swept away by the current.
“I watched as she went down river. Her head went underwater several times, I knew she was drowning.” Weiland adds. “I had tossed my cell phone ashore earlier, so adding to my feeling of helplessness was having no way to call for help!”
Weiland decided to make a run for a nearby farmhouse instead, which was approximately ¾ of a mile away. There, she used a landline telephone to call the Lincoln County 911 Communications Center.
“The dispatcher on the other end was amazing,” Weiland says. “She calmed me down right away and was very patient with me, even though I was frantic by that point.”
Almost immediately, three deputies from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office were en route.
“They came out and looked for her for over an hour,” Weiland explained. “While they looked, I called my husband and he came out to meet me. As we were talking about what had happened, I suddenly had a hunch where she might be. After all, she could have been still alive since deputies couldn’t find her.”
Susan and her husband Jim headed out to a swampy area about 3/4 of a mile down river from where Pepsi went in. They were overjoyed to see Pepsi standing in a swamp, safe and sound.
“She had gotten out on her own and got up on shore. She was in a swampy area, so when she saw me she couldn’t run toward me, but was so happy to see me! She whinnied and ran around in circles,” Susan adds with a delighted laugh. “I dropped to my knees and thanked the lord she was still alive.”
Since that fateful early-fall afternoon, the pair has returned several times to that very same crossing with varying results.
“We returned to the crossing again about a week after the incident, and she crossed without a problem,” Susan adds. “We returned again a couple times afterward and she did fine. But then last spring, we returned for a third time and it wasn’t so easy. The water was once again very swift and high, Pepsi was nervous. I admit I was in a hurry and I tried to rush her, I pushed her too hard and she had a panic attack. She wasn’t exactly agitated, but she was pacing and I knew she didn’t feel safe. When she doesn’t feel safe, I don’t feel safe.”
Since that occasion, Weiland admits she has learned from her beloved equine friend.
“I felt it was important to keep bringing her back to the crossing, to try and get her comfortable as that is a very common area for us to ride together. We learned together I think. I learned to take my time and be patient with her and in-time she learned to be more comfortable, as long as I slowed down and took my time with her.
“This summer and this past spring has been great, we have crossed the creek several times together without any issues,” Weiland adds. “She is still nervous around water and probably always will be. I think I will always need to take some extra time with her when crossing any water, especially in that area due to what happened two years ago. It may take some extra time and patience on my part, but I am just happy she was able to overcome what happened and enjoy our rides together.”
Susan Weiland and her family would like to express their sincere gratitude to the 911 dispatcher who provided a calm, patient presence in taking the call that fateful September day. She would also like to thank the deputies of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office for their tireless efforts in searching for Pepsi.