Location: Independence, Ohio
Date: January 27, 1992
On January 27, 1992, horse trainer Pat Mahoney was transporting racehorse Setting Limits and a colt named ML Pursuit to a farm for the winter. The ground in Independence, Ohio, was covered with light snow as Mahoney traveled down the highway in his pickup truck pulling the two-horse trailer.
As Mahoney drove, the horses shifted their weight enough to throw the trailer off balance. Mike and Susan Flores, who were driving behind Mahoney, saw the truck and trailer start to weave and were afraid an accident was about to occur. A second later, Mahoney lost control, and the truck and trailer spun in a circle across lanes of traffic. As they came to a stop on the highway, the trailer broke loose from the pickup and flipped over on its side.
The Floreses stopped and ran to the trailer where the panicked racehorses were trapped inside. Setting Limits was pinned under the colt, and she was bleeding from the colt's kicking in an effort to free herself. Mahoney didn't know what to do. He was afraid to let the horses loose on the highway, but he worried that if left inside, Setting Limits would be further injured. Suddenly, the colt broke free and galloped down the highway's median, but fortunately, he was caught one mile away.
Rescue units from the Independence Police and Fire Departments responded to the scene, including paramedic Frank Kruzewski. Rescuers had the equipment to cut the trailer in half, but they didn't know what they would do with Setting Limits if she was released. Although the filly was obviously hurting herself in her struggle to gain freedom, they decided to wait until veterinarian Dan Wilson arrived. Mahoney was most concerned about the filly's bleeding legs. "All the kicking in the trailer could have done extensive damage," says Mahoney. "They can kick a board and end a career."
Dr. Wilson arrived twenty minutes later. "A horse's first instinct is to run," says Dr. Wilson, "and when they can't they panic. A lot of well-meaning people have been killed by horses in a panic situation." As firefighters cut throught the metal bar that was trappong Setting Limits inside the trailer, she collapsed from exhaustion. Dr. Wilson had to get her out quickly to see if he could save her. She was in shock, had lost a great deal of blood, and had a severed artery above her left eye. Mahoney knew she would never race again, but hoped she'd just pull through.
Dr. Wilson didn't want to risk moving Setting Limits because she was in shock, so he got to work on the scene. Kruzewski was amazed to watch the veterinarian perform surgery under such conditions--kneeling on the snow-covered ground in bitter cold to suture the filly's severed artery. Wilson assistant inserted an IV in the horse's neck. "The vet told me, "Just hold pressure and push it in as fast as you can,' " recalls Kruzewski. "We're not used to pushing so much fluid into a person. They just don't teach us veterinarian medicine in paramedic school."
After he finished the operation, Dr. Wilson held Setting Limits on the ground. Unexpectedly, she sprang to her feet, a sign that she was feeling healthy and strong. "She just kind of pitched me around like a peanut," recalls Dr. Wilson. "Once she stood up, she never looked back."
Mahoney was beginning to think there might be a happy ending to the incident. And there was. Setting Limits and the colt shocked everybody by walking straight into a new trailer without a moment's hesitation. "The paramedics and firemen who were there were absolutely great," says Dr. Wilson. "They're the ones who really deserve the credit for saving this filly and colt.
Setting Limits' owner, Shirley Girten, knew her filly's racing future was uncertain when rehabilitation began. Despite all odds, eight months after the accident, Setting Limits returned to the track and won her race. Today, she has retired from racing to have babies. "She went out in style," says Shirley. "She went out winning just as happy as the day she came in. She's going to have babies, well-deserved babies, I hope, that shall be the runners and carry the heart and stamina that she did."