The sound of a whinny from underground alerted the owners of a missing pony to her location and predicament.
Welsh section A three-year-old Boothsdale Starflower (Flo) somehow became stuck in a hole on Saturday morning (22 February) and had to be freed by expert digger-driving.
Owner Rosie Wilson, of Boothsdale Stud, said the mare had been with a friend for the winter and was due to return home that morning.
“My friend Jo had checked her that morning but when we got to the field, there were only three ponies in it,” Rosie told H&H. “You think, ‘Oh goodness, what’s she done?’”
The pair scoured the field and as Jo looked in a patch of bushes used by the ponies for shelter, she heard a whinny – coming from underfoot.
“You could just make out the top of the pony,” Rosie said. “I work as a land agent and have heard of this sort of thing happening so wasn’t completely blindsided, but straight away there’s the panic of ‘Is she going to be all right and how are we going to get her out?’”
Rosie called her vet Richard Owen, in case Flo needed to be sedated, and Mr Owen called friends of his, brothers Ed and Rob Ellis-Jones who had a digger. She believes the hole, in a former mining area of north Wales, could have been an old shaft.
“Jo and I stayed by the hole until they got there,” Rosie said. “Flo was very calm and quiet but we thought if she could hear us, it would reassure her.
“The real worry was that it was a fairly small space, and whether she was going to panic because of the digger, try to climb the walls and hurt herself.”
Rosie and Mr Owen eventually decided against sedating Flo, as even if they had been able to reach her to administer the drug, they felt she would need all her wits about her to free herself.
“We thought we’d just start and see how she was and although she was a bit scared at first, it was as if she thought ‘That’s OK, it’s coming to rescue me,’” Rosie said.
“We started digging further away from the hole so when we broke through, there was a clear exit. It didn’t take long; Rob’s a very good driver and Ed was watching and guiding him.
“When she got out, she went haring around the field twice with her tail in the air, then I shook a feed skip and she came over and was calm. We checked her over and she was fine.”
Rosie said she breeds for good temperament and is thankful Flo has inherited a calm attitude to life.
“You think of all the what-ifs afterwards and the biggest one for me is what if we hadn’t found her,” she added. “We could easily have walked past that hole if we hadn’t heard her, and searched high and low and not found her.
“As it was, we know she hadn’t been in there long — thank God for vocal ponies!”
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Rosie said the incident has highlighted the importance of checking horses and ponies at grass twice a day.
“It would be good if this helps people realise why it’s so important to check them,” she said. “I know of a lot of people who don’t, but this shows it can happen.
“Jo’s one of the most careful horse owners I know and she regularly checks the fields, so it’s not as if there was a big hole waiting for her to fall in. If they can get themselves in a scrape, they will.”
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