A pony stranded in a water-filled ditch in remote marshland was pulled to safety in the nick of time by the fire and rescue service, as his body temperature plummeted to dangerous levels.
The 12hh coloured pony was spotted on Tuesday (6 February) by an observant dog walker who called the emergency services when she realised he was unable to escape thick mud.
Former horse owner Aisha Newcombe was walking on paths in Shorne Marshes near Higham, Kent, when her son saw what looked like a horse’s head on the bank.
“I walk my dog in that area often but I was only out that day because my friend had the day off work and wanted to go and see a shipwreck that’s nearby,” Aisha said.
“There was a mare and what looked like a yearling on the other side of the sea wall and the yearling almost appeared to be herding us towards something — I thought what he was doing was strange. Then my son saw what he thought was a white horse’s head.”
At first Aisha and her friend tried to coax the pony out with some grass, but although he tried to take it, he kept sinking back into the mud.
“He was thrashing about and I knew there was nothing we could do so I called the police,” she said.
“I thought they might wonder why I was calling about a pony but I was amazed how many people turned up. Everyone was so caring, it was humbling.”
Aisha went out to the road two miles away to meet the team from Kent Fire and Rescue, and had taken mobile phone footage of the trapped pony so they were able to assess what equipment they needed to bring across the boggy fields.
The service’s animal rescue and water rescue units were deployed to the scene and they were able to use a head harness, strops and ropes to pull the little cob sideways onto the bank.
He was warmed with foil blankets and eventually assisted into a standing position.
“I had to leave when he was still shaking on the floor as I had to collect my other children from school and I was worried they would have to put him down — he was so cold his gums were white and his tongue was blue and purple. The weather was absolutely freezing,” Aisha said.
“I asked the police to keep me informed and I heard they got him up and to a farm and I was surprised — it would be great to go and see how he is doing.”
Kent Fire and Rescue Service station manager Mark Gosling, who oversaw the rescue, said: “This was logistically a very tricky rescue with the horse being around two miles from the nearest road.
“The phone video proved to be incredibly valuable, giving us a preview of what to expect. It meant we could decide what equipment we needed to take with us, saving time and energy to focus on saving the animal.
“We work closely with the RSPCA and where there is a risk to life we will respond. I’m pleased to say it was a successful rescue and the horse is now doing well in the care of a farmer.”
RSPCA officer Tina Nash also attended the incident, and called a local vet to assist. When she first arrived, the pony was weak and unable to stand but later struggled to his feet.
With the help of a local farmer and two policeman, she was able to walk the freezing pony to a nearby farm.
A Suffolk woman has been banned from keeping horses after allowing her pony’s hooves to grow so long it could
'Why was such a low value placed on these beautiful animals?’
A number of people made calls to the charity's cruelty line when they saw the horse
On first assessment, the vet found the pony’s temperature too low to register a reading, so he was left in the farmer’s barn to warm up and be monitored.
A spokesman for the charity said the pony was recovering well from his ordeal at a boarding yard, and had been named “Swampy” because of his muddy condition.
“We would like to thank everyone that was involved in rescuing him,:” she said. “If anyone has any information about this pony or where he came from, please call the RSPCA’s confidential appeal line on 0300 123 8018.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.