As a water master for Salt River Project, Kristen Keim is used to working with customers to resolve irrigation water order issues and maintain reliable deliveries. Earlier this month though, Keim’s job took an unusual turn. Last week, on a hot July 9th Saturday, Keim was removing moss from an area of the Arizona Canal on the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community when she noticed a horse standing waist-deep in the water.
"The horse was near one of our equipment entrance ramps and did not appear to be in distress and was even blowing bubbles with its nose," said Keim. "It was a very warm morning, and I didn’t think twice about it being in the water as we often see the wild horses in the area enter the canal to cool off."
Keim left the area to inspect another section of the canal, and when she returned around noon to clear more moss, she noticed the horse was in the exact same location, facing the same direction – although this time it was further out of the water than before.
"I hadn’t realized earlier that morning that it was kneeling on all four knees. I grew concerned that it may be injured, stuck in some mud or that it couldn’t get its footing as the moss can be slippery," Keim said. "Once I realized that he could be injured and knowing the history of the beloved Salt River wild horse population, I was determined to get him out of the water."
With temperatures approaching 110 degrees, Keim then contacted SRP’s Association Dispatch Center to advise them of the situation and cautiously approached the horse to see what assistance she could provide. After determining the horse was not alarmed by her presence, Keim managed to get the animal to turn around, but not up the ramp and out of the water.
After calling her colleague and fellow water master Chris Crosland to help, it was then Keim turned to a tried-and-true wild west approach.
"I retrieved a rope from my truck and tied a large loop in the end. I was able to lasso him and pull him a few feet towards the ramp," Keim said. "I teamed up with Chris, using the rope and the pole to carefully pull the horse and help shuffle his legs up the ramp. It took some time, but he finally gathered his footing and made his way safely up the ramp. Eventually, he crossed the canal road, into the shade and began eating some brush. I watched him disappear into the trees."
"I had to do everything in my power to make sure that he was okay. It was a great reminder to always be aware of your surroundings, you never know what could happen!"