The RSPCA and the owner of a 16hh part-bred Shire have praised firemenwho left their picket line at Eccles fire station in Manchester last week to help rescue a horse.

Five-year-old Rowan was trapped for around six hours in a 12-ft-wide ditch at a farm in Urmston.

The RSPCA and a vet werefirst on the scene but were unable to help.

Firefighter Jim Bridge, said: “Two lads from the farm came to ask for help. They had dialled 999, but the army wouldn’t go out. They were very distressed and desperate.

“We had no doubt about it being morally right, the only slight worry was that in a strike situation, we weren’t insured and animal rescues can be dangerous.

“The horse was exhausted by the time we got there. The people already on the scene didn’t really know how to proceed. We borrowed a JCB, dug a ditch, secured some ropes round him and we managed to cajole him on to the bank.”

RSPCA inspector, Martin Fletcher said: “The firemen were keen to help. We couldn’t have got him free without them.The water was up to his withers. The owner was holding his head above the water.

“His front legs were free, but his back legs were stuck. He was struggling and very tired. It was a very serious situation and very difficult to do.”

The farmer, Jim Taylor, also helped in the rescue operation.

Rowan is reported to be recovering from his ordeal. It is believed he had run through fencing in the dark and slithered into the ditch.