A team of 12 firefighters rescued a horse found up to his neck in water in a deep ditch on Wednesday (27 June).

Vince, a 16.3hh warmblood cross, had escaped from his field, to the alarm of his owner Serena Hole.

The 15-year-old chestnut was happily grazing when checked at 10pm the previous night but was not there the next morning at 7.30am.

Vince had managed to break part of the fence and was nowhere to be seen.

The horse had followed the rhyne, a deep ditch common in the Somerset levels and was found up to his neck in water scrambling to get out.

Vet Duncan Ballard from Gloucestershire vets B&W Equine Group managed to get a headcollar on the horse to sedate him.

“I leant down and was able to inject him in the vein with a sedative. Because he was stressed it took repeated doses to get a reasonable level of sedation,” said Ballard.

A fire and rescue unit from the Cheddar Fire Service arrived at the scene at 10am to get Vince out.

There were two units, totalling 12 men, involved in the rescue.

Vince’s head was restrained by the vet and the owner’s best friend Jayne Sleep while the fire crew put on their wetsuits and personal protection equipment and went down a ladder into the ditch.

Straps were placed under the horse’s head, abdomen and chest.

The horse was hoisted directly upwards as the ditch was too steep to drag him out on to safe ground.

When he could take his own weight again the straps were released and he was checked over by the vet for any damage.

“He was exhausted but had no obvious external wounds from his ordeal,” said Ballard.

On his advice the horse has been turned out in a small pen and is being monitored for any swelling, lameness, coughing or discharge due to the possible inhalation of water.

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Vince is not the only horse treated by vets at B&W Equine Group to have fallen in a deep ditch.

“We had three similar cases last year and are now working with the animal section of Gloucestershire fire and rescue service to get some training and see how we can learn from each other,” said Lou Purvis, marketing manager at the B&W Equine Group which has five clinics across the southwest.

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

In this week’s Horse & Hound magazine, out on 28 June, is a full report from the Hickstead Derby meeting, a six-page report from Royal Ascot, a feature on the much-discussed whip rules and, in this week’s ‘vet clinic’, find out how to spot the signs of sand colic.