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Alta. man rescues wild foal trapped on steep cliffside

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A man’s daring rescue of a newborn wild foal that was trapped after falling down a steep embankment was caught on video over the weekend.

On Sunday, a member of the Help Alberta Wildies Society (HAWS), a wild horse advocacy group, spotted a newborn foal in distress on a cliffside near Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, west of Sundre, Alta.

The foal had tumbled down the cliffside and was perched near a steep vertical drop-off, tangled in branches. Its mother was unable to help it get free.

Video from the scene provided by HAWS shows Dustin Lyle, from Sundre, scale the cliffside to help the foal get free.

He pulled the foal out of the branches and helped it get back on its feet, so it could climb back to its mother.

The two horses were able to traverse the steep cliffside and walk back down to safety.

In an interview with CTV News, Lyle said he was heading out for the day to fish with his family when they came upon the horses.

He was driving when his girlfriend spotted the horses up on the cliffside.

“At first I got out and I saw that there was just a mare there, but I couldn’t see the colt that fell down the mountain into the sticks there,” Lyle said.

“I went up and went across there and grabbed the horse, the colt, by the front leg and (dragged) it up.”

After a week of rain, Lyle said the conditions on the slope were treacherous and he had to focus to keep himself upright by holding onto some nearby trees.

“It feels pretty good to get it off there and get with its mom, it’s not very old anyways I don’t think, so it’s good,” he said.

Born and raised in Sundre, Lyle said he has seen lots of wild horses when travelling west of the town and grew up around horses, so he knew how to handle himself around the mare. 

“I didn’t really realize how important the wild horses are to everybody … and it’s great that they’re looking after them,” he said.

“I guess I just see them all the time out here so it’s kind of normal for me.”

Darrell Glover, the president of HAWS, said this is a busy time of year for foal rescues.

“We've rescued three already in the first part of May. In fact, we did three rescues in three days. And we get into some pretty precarious places, but nothing like that one,” Glover said.

HAWS posted the video of the rescue to its Facebook page and it had 316,000 views as of Monday afternoon.

Glover says the video is a great way to raise awareness about wild horses.

“Of course, everybody is commenting on how heroic this young man was. And it's my understanding that, like any hero, he doesn't think he's a hero. He just did what he had to do. So the response has been fantastic,” he said.

Ya Ha Tinda is located approximately 200 kilometres northwest of Calgary.

According to the Government of Alberta, there were 1,478 feral horses in the province as of its last survey in January and February 2024.

The province surveys feral horse populations across six equine management zones: Brazeau, Nordegg, Clearwater, Sundre, Ghost River and Elbow.

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