HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — A western Montana couple were able to save a horse from drowning in the Bitterroot River on Father's Day, and may have made a new friend in the process.
Matthew and Christina Eickholt of Hamilton were floating down the river on Sunday with Matthew's parents at a spot called Bell Crossing north of Victor when they noticed some splashing near the shore.
They soon realized it was a horse that was fighting the current as it tried to get out of the river near a steep bank in a spot where the water was about 10 feet (3 meters) deep.
“He was breathing super heavy,” Matthew Eickholt told the Ravalli Republic. “Its eyes were all bugged out. At times, all we could see was its teeth above water. It was snorting. I think it may have been 30 seconds to a minute from going under.”
The Eickholts pulled to shore at a shallower spot in the river just downstream from the horse.
“We started clapping and yelling,” Matthew Eickholt said. “We were able to coax him to come downstream. When he saw us, I think he knew we were there to help him. Once he got to us, he was able to pull himself out of there.”
“He was a super nice horse,” he said. “We were all so happy that it turned out the way it did."
Two days later, the couple was floating the same stretch of river with Christina's parents when they spotted the horse and pulled over to say hello.
“The horse remembered us and came running up to us with his two friends,” Christina Eickholt said.
The Eickholts haven't yet learned who the horses belong to.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening Christina wrote: “Hoping to visit the horse every time we float our favorite route!”