Mare found floundering in deep river after trespassers leave field gate open

  • The owner of a mare who had to be rescued from a river too deep to stand up in after trespassers left the field gate open wants to raise awareness of appropriate behaviour in the countryside.

    Tegan Harteveld told H&H her part-bred Arab Luna seems to be recovering from her ordeal on Saturday (15 May) but the situation could have been far worse.

    “I’m so glad it wasn’t her daughter who went in as she’d probably have panicked and be dead now,” she said. “Or if it had been winter, or she’d had a rug on; it could have been so much worse.”

    Tegan was at home when a message arrived on her Lincolnshire yard’s group chat to say the horses had got out, and one was in the river.

    “Then I got a phone call to say it was my horse in the river,” she said.

    “I got there as fast as I could and when I did, she had her head lying on the bank. That was the worst part of it; she looked almost asleep, and someone said ‘She’s starting to lose the fight’.”

    Luna perked up slightly when she saw Tegan, but she was “absolutely knackered”.

    “I didn’t realise how deep the river was,” Tegan said. “I thought she just couldn’t get out and was standing there, but it was so deep, her head kept bobbing under water.

    “She couldn’t touch the floor; it was like one horror story after another.”

    Two men from the yard had managed to put a headcollar on Luna and get her head to the bank to save her from drowning, Tegan said, and were hoping the mare would find her footing and be able to climb out.

    “With that, she reared up, her back end slipped under her and she almost fell backwards into the water and got loose,” Tegan said. “She started to swim up the river.”

    By this time, fire crews and animal rescuers had arrived, and one fireman went into the river to try to intercept Luna.

    “She did a hell of a swim,” Tegan said. “She was panicking, and quickened up to get past him but he managed to grab one of the ropes and brought her back to the bank.”

    The rescuers helped pull Luna out, and she was back on her feet almost straight away.

    “There was no stopping her, which was surprising but I was grateful she could stand,” Tegan said. “She was cold and wet but all she wanted was to be back with the others.

    “The vet came and checked her; she had a few cuts and grazes but the vet said she’s very strong, and to keep an eye on her and if she was herself the next day, she could go back out in the field – she’s been out since Sunday.”

    Tegan said there is no footpath in the horses’ field, and the gate that was left open is never used. It also opens into the field so it is believed the only possibility is that a walker opened it.

    “The whole thing could have been avoided if someone hadn’t been trespassing,” she said.

    “Six horses got out, of 10 in the field, and luckily only Luna went in the river but there was another one on the river bank.

    “The only thing I can think of is that maybe a dog got loose in the field and the owner went to get it, or maybe they thought it was too boggy to go through the other bit [of land] and our field was dry; maybe the horses came over and the walker panicked and left the gate open.

    “That’s speculation but people just don’t get it. We’ve probably all lost the footpath at some point or something, and ended up in the wrong place, but at least leave things as you find them.

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    “Shut the gate, don’t feed horses, don’t interfere; it’s not rocket science and we’re not asking a lot. I think the more people know about it the better: just shut the gate.

    “The vet bill I could also have done without, as I’m going through a tough time. I’d rather have the bill and have my horse but it was unnecessary, and wouldn’t have happened without mindless people.”

    Tegan said she is very grateful to the emergency services, the non-horsey dog walker who raised the alarm, and the men who first got to Luna.

    “Without that, I don’t think she’d have survived,” she said.

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