Rescuers who battled against rising tide to save an 18 year-old mare from drowning have been commended for their brave actions

Rescuers who freed an 18-year-old chestnut mare from mud flats and deep gullies in a race against time on one of the hottest days of this summer received RSPCA awards today (6 November).

More than 30 people were involved in helping the mare called Rosie, who had started sinking while being ridden at low tide along the estuary of the River Stour at Holbrook Creek in Suffolk.

Twenty-year-old Becky Fox, who usually did not take this route, was riding the horse for its owner when she was faced with a battle against the rising tide. The drama that unfolded lasted seven hours.

“If Becky hadn’t had a mobile phone on which to call for help quickly, I don’t know what she would have done,” said RSPCA chief inspector Mark Thompson. “It was about a 1 1/2 mile walk to safety and the area would have been under water.”

When rescuers arrived, Rosie, who had been struggling frantically and was up to her belly in mud , was lying in water and the tide was on its way in.

The team managed to drag the part-bred Arab/Welsh pony to a drier land, but were hampered by gullies. Exhausted and unable to stand, lifejackets were used to support Rosie’s head to prevent her from drowning.

Two inflatable pontoons, each about 15ft long and 4ft wide, were strapped on top of each other in a desperate attempt to float the sedated mare away from danger.

“It was touch and go as we did not know if the pontoon would stay buoyant under her weight,” said Mike. “But there was enough manpower to keep it up if needed.”

After being floated down the river and through the gullies before landing safely on hard shingle, Rosie was kept warm and comfortable for two hours before being led back to herstable where she was greeted by stablemates King and Shannon, two horses owned by the teenage daughter of actor Griff Rhys Jones

The Certificate of Merits which are usually awarded in circumstances “over and above the normal courseof duty” , were presented by RSPCA regional manager John Atter.

They were awarded to RSPCA Chief Inspector Mark Thompson, Inspector Jason Finch, Mr R Petit, MRCVS, the officers of green watch of both Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds fire stations, the retained crew at Holbrook fire station, Walton on Naze and Holbrook coastguards and blue watch at Colchester First station.

Mr Atter said: “This was clearly a difficult rescue that necessitated no small amount of bravery and ingenuity on the part of the people involved. Without the dedication and hard work of the rescue team it is unlikely that the horse would have survived and I am delighted to see their efforts recognised.”

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