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what3words app helps rescuers locate horse stuck in deep ditch

A horse who got stuck in a five foot-deep ditch has been rescued thanks to an app that enabled his owner to give the fire services their exact location.

Steph Lynch, from Ovingham near Newcastle, was riding her 15.2hh part-bred Connemara Merlyn on grass tracks near his livery yard when he lost his footing on 15 October.

“I was riding along the hedge line; underneath is a ditch but it wasn’t very visible where the hedge has grown over it. I’m not sure if Merlyn shied at something or if the ground gave way but his back foot went first, he stepped towards the hedge and the rest of him followed,” Steph told H&H.

“Merlyn was half in, half out of the ditch. I got myself off and out of the way. He tried so hard to get himself out but the ditch was too deep, it was never going to happen.”

Steph contacted her vet at Scott Mitchell Associates, and Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service. Using the ‘what3words’ app, which provides three unique words for every three square metres of land to identify precise locations, the emergency services were able to pinpoint where she was.

“I was trying not to panic but I knew we needed some major assistance,” she said. “I was struggling to explain to the operator where I was because we were in the middle of about six fields.

“Then I remembered I had the app; I opened it and gave the three words it showed and the operator knew exactly where I was and which fire brigades to send. I phoned my friend Ginny Rutherford, a veterinary nurse and livery, who came and waited with me while we waited for the rescue services.”

Crews from Hexam, Prudhoe and Allendale fire stations arrived 15 minutes later followed by the vet who sedated Merlyn.

“It was agreed we needed to get ropes around Merlyn for him to be lifted out but the ditch was too tight and the hedge was almost enclosing him. The landowners, the Bramwells of Horsely, came and helped pull the hedges back with machinery while the fire crews dug the ditch and got the straps round him.

“I kept thinking how grateful I was for everyone’s help – they tried so hard and were so determined the whole time. There was never any option of failure, even when something wasn’t working someone would say ‘we’ll try it this way’. The crews were brilliant and kept checking how I was.”

Steph, who competed Merlyn in the BE90 class at the Mitsubishi Motors Cup at Badminton this year and is qualified for the 2020 Science Supplements Cup, said she was uninjured except for some “aches and pains”. Merlyn is expected to make a full recovery.

“We walked him back to the yard and he was happy in himself, but he looked like he had been in a boxing match. He had been on his side for so long his right eye was cut and swollen shut and he had a haematoma on his side – but it could have been a lot worse,” she said.

“The vet was initially concerned about his eye, but it is now fully open and the vet is confident he is going to be fine. His muscles are stiff and sore so he will get all the time he needs to fully recover.”

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Steph has urged others to download the app.

“My boyfriend told me about it while we were hiking in the summer and I downloaded it after I saw a rider post about a similar incident. I really think it’s worth having – not just for riders, but dog walkers, cyclists or anyone that is outdoors. It takes 30 seconds to download and then you have it. I never thought I’d need it, but it’s a huge relief I had it.”

A spokesman for Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service told H&H: “We recommend that everyone downloads the app. We use it in our fire control room; it helps pinpoint where people are if there is an incident, particularly in rural areas.”

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