Heroic bystander saves drowning horse in dramatic sea rescue

A showing producer saved a drowning horse who had unseated his rider and swam out to sea, in a dramatic beach rescue earlier this week.

Will Chatley of Standinghat Stud & Show Team was at Hayling Island beach in Hampshire on Monday evening when he spotted a loose horse in the sea.

“It was low tide and I was at the beach with three horses from my yard. I went for a walk on the sandbank with my dog and I saw a horse in the distance swimming out,” Will told H&H.

“I phoned one of the parents, Sam Groves, who was with my three horses. They came to me so I left the dog with them and I went to help the horse. I could see it was panicking and going further and further out. I managed to wade out up to my armpits, but it swam further out and I decided to keep going.”

Will said the horse, a 16hh gelding, had swam almost a mile out to sea.

“The horse was still panicking and I tried to get his attention. It went under the water at least eight times that I saw. The tide was coming in fast and the water was getting deeper and stronger – that was the worst part, the cross-currents. He came up again and had exhausted himself. I managed to clip my dog lead on to his bridle and turn him round,” he said.

“He went to panic again and I realised he had the reins caught round his leg. I undid the reins from the bridle and managed to bring him back to shore.”

Will, who was in the water for around an hour, said he believes the horse was at risk of drowning.

“I’m not the strongest swimmer and I don’t particularly like the sea, but on the other hand I wouldn’t be able to watch a rat drown so I did it – I hadn’t intended going in so deep,” he said.

“If it had been 15 minutes later I don’t think I would have gone in. I did because there were people on the beach who saw what I was doing and could get help. At times the people on the beach couldn’t see me and I couldn’t see them.”

The young rider, who had been unseated before the horse swam out to sea, was uninjured and the horse was checked by a vet at the scene.

“The vet said the horse was ok to travel home and for him to be monitored in case of colic, but he was incredibly lucky. The poor rider gave me a big hug and thanked me and I’m going to meet up with the family and visit the horse. I’ve had an update to say he is fine and oblivious to what happened,” said Will.

“The coastguard arrived and when I got out of the water they gave me a blanket. I know how dangerous the water can be, horses will just keep going they don’t know to turn round and think ‘I came from that direction’ – it’s the risk we take with horses at the beach.”

Will said he is surprised by the recognition he has received.

“I’m absolutely fine, but I could feel it in my legs yesterday. It didn’t really sink in until last night I thought ‘oh my god I did that!’. At the time I did it because it needed doing. It it feels odd to have this much recognition, I didn’t do it for that – I saw a horse who was going to be dead in a minute and had to try to stop it from happening,” he said.

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A spokesman for HM Coastguard told H&H: “The Hayling coastguard rescue team and RNLI lifeboat were sent to the scene. When the coastguard team arrived at the scene, no horses or people were ashore. They were all safe and the teams were stood down after providing safety advice.

“The coastguard would like to encourage everyone to enjoy our British coastline safely. Make sure that you check weather and tides before you set out and wear appropriate clothing and footwear. If you are in difficulty or you see anyone in distress at the coast, call 999 and ask for the coastguard. Do not attempt to rescue an animal which is being swept out to sea. This is because you are likely to get in to difficulty.

“If your handset is out of coverage from your network provider you can still try making a 999 or 112 emergency call as, although not guaranteed, it might get picked up by another network provider. Tell the coastguard what the problem is and where you are. You may need to stay on the line to direct them to the scene.”

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