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A horse sparked a sea rescue operation yesterday afternoon after bolting in shallow water and swimming half a mile out into the Channel.

Shallimah threw her female rider as they paddled in Sandwich Bay, Kent, and started to swim out to sea.

The woman tried to swim after her but quickly realised she had no hope of catching the mare and called out the coastguard.

Dover Coastguard received a series of 999 calls at around 2.37pm reporting a rider and a horse in difficulties in the sea off Sandwich Bay Sailing Club.

The Walmer RNLI Inshore Lifeboat was launched and the volunteer crew reached the scene in 15 minutes.

The crew managed to attach a line to Shallimah’s bridle and coax her back to shore.

Walmer lifeboat helmsman Andrew Howland told a local paper: “This was one of the most unusual and most satisfying rescues I’ve carried out whilst a lifeboat crew member.

“Leading a horse to water is one thing but persuading it to come out again is a completely different issue.”