Day-old foal has to be winched to safety from sinkhole

  • A day-old foal had to be winched to safety by fire crews after falling into a disused mineshaft that had opened up in her field.

    Fiona Dickson, who bred the Exmoor filly at her Beinnliath Stud in Medomsley, County Durham, said the foal’s dam had been spotted “acting very agitated” at about 10.30am on Tuesday morning (19 March).

    “The filly was born in the early hours of Monday morning and when I left for work at 8.15am on Tuesday, she was in the field and fine but some time between then and 10.30am, a hole had opened up in my field and she’d fallen in it,” Fiona explained.

    “I got a call and I came straight back from work and called the fire brigade on my way, and they arrived at about the same time as I did — they were there in 15 to 20 minutes and were just amazing.”

    The County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service crew was able to dig a wider entrance to the hole and then, using a sling guided by a shepherd’s hook, they winched the foal out.


    “It was all done without stress and once we got her out we frogmarched her over to her dam, who I’d moved along with three other mares to a field next door, and lifted her over the fence and she just went straight back to her mother and had a drink,” Fiona said.

    “She didn’t have a mark on her — I think because it was dark in the hole, she had just gone to sleep. She’s been fine since, although she has been glued to her mother’s side.”

    Like many areas in the Northeast, Fiona’s property overlays disused mine shafts and a representative of the Coal Board also went to the site to help guide the three attending fire crews from Consett and Bishop Auckland.

    “Having a hole open up like that certainly took me by surprise but I know sink holes happen regularly round my area as there are a lot of old mining works, so it was a possibility,” said Fiona.

    “The man from the Coal Board knew exactly where all the tracks were and was able to tell the firefighters what had happened and how safe it was to dig.

    “The Coal Board was fantastic and came straight out to fence it off and they will now dig it out and fill it,” she added. “They don’t really know why it happened as it’s been dry — there was no real explanation.”

    Continues below…

    The filly, who is out of Dunkery Fulvetta, has the registered name of Beinnliath Velvet Dove but her stable name is still being decided.

    “I think I might call her Coalene now, pronounced like Jolene!” Fiona said.

    “She’s one I plan to keep.”

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