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January 29, 2023

Missing horse freed from mud pit

PRUNEDALE—A horse that had gone missing in Prunedale for two weeks is now back home and healthy after suffering a bizarre plunge into a large mud pit.

North Monterey County Fire Division Chief Jess Mendoza said his crew got a call about a horse rescue on Sept. 2 on Holly Hills Drive. When firefighters arrived they teamed up with the SPCA and horse owner Jennifer Moore-Gardoni in freeing Rocky from a large mud hole.

Rocky initially went missing on Aug. 18. Fearing Rocky had been stolen, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office started an investigation. However, on Sept. 2, a Pacific Gas and Electric worker spotted the animal stuck under a downed tree. A call from the PG&E worker triggered the rescue effort that went on for over an hour, Mendoza said. 

Officials surmised that Rocky survived the two-week ordeal by drinking water and eating fresh greenery that was in the mud hole where he was trapped. 

“Really, he just needed an avenue to get out and we were glad to cut that path,” Mendoza said. “This was my first large animal rescue; it felt pretty good to see that Rocky was OK.” On Facebook, Moore-Gardoni said, “Thank god for the North County Fire Department for their heroic actions. Thank god for PG&E. And thank god for the SPCA that came to help!” 

Mendoza said the last report was that Rocky was standing on all fours and eating and drinking.

Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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