Mud-trapped horse rescue against rising tide 😨 | Saving Lives At Sea – BBC
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Mud-trapped horse rescue against rising tide 😨 | Saving Lives At Sea – BBC


Mid-April.
Blue skies, low tide.
When I arrived at the station,
I was appointed as the commander
for the shout.
First thing we heard is there were
two horses stuck in the mud.
Which was a first for ourselves.
So, you know, there’s a lot
going through our heads
about how to tackle that.
Then more information
came through, that there was
human casualties there as well.
So that made the situation
even more serious.
Were the humans in danger
of being stuck under the horses?
We did not know, so it was
a very, very tense time.
My worst-case scenario
with people and animals
stuck in the mud is the tide.
If the tide’s flooding,
if we’re coming up to high water
and we get that call,
time is critical.
As well as the risk to human life
adding to the urgency of the shout,
the crew also discover that the two
riders are young girls,
aged just 14 and 11.
It was quite emotional, really,
because we didn’t know
what to expect.
Things start coming into your mind,
whether it’s going to be
any injuries. The other thing
that went through my head is,
I’ve never dug a horse
out of mud before,
so this is going to be
interesting.
It takes the crew ten minutes
to reach the shout location.
As they draw closer,
they spot something.
We knew that we only had
one horse to deal with then.
As the pilot of the hovercraft,
I had to be mindful of not
getting too close to the casualties.
With there being horses involved,
I didn’t want them to get spooked
and scared.
When we arrived there, Merseyside
Fire and Rescue were already
there, and some of the coastguards
were already there.
We established that both riders
were in fact OK,
but once we saw the horse
stuck in the mud,
we realised that it wasn’t going
to be such a simple job.
Though one horse and both riders
are safe,
the hovercraft crew still
have a half-tonne problem
on their hands.
The horse was pretty stuck.
He was stuck all the way
to the tops of his legs.
He was a lot deeper
than what I envisioned
on our way out there.
I was quite surprised to see a horse
in that area, to be honest,
and I heard that the horse
had bolted from the beach
and the other horse had followed.
I don’t think she would have
gone there by herself,
initially wanting to go there.
The sand is always shifting, these
mudflats move and gullies move,
so it wasn’t a very pleasant
place to be.
It was just a case of digging
by hand at first.
So we started to dig,
and we dug and we dug and we dug,
as a whole team effort.
I initially thought I would get
this horse out in a few minutes.
We dug for about 45 minutes,
I think it was.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Watch yourselves.
Then Bobby decides to just jump out
the mud by himself.
All right, mate.
And then he sunk again.
Watch them back legs, yeah?
I was feeling pretty deflated
once we got him free,
and he instantly got stuck again,
and we were back to square one.
An hour after launching,
the crew are still no closer
to freeing Bobby.
We talked with our fire colleagues,
our coastguard colleagues,
to come up with another plan,
really.
It was quite a multi-agency job,
pooling our knowledge,
our resources and our equipment
together.
We used some of the fire equipment,
some strops and some lifts,
to try and help him out of the mud
whilst we were digging.
Working in mud,
it has its own challenges.
It sometimes feels like you’re
getting nowhere fast with it.
The only way you can really
deal with getting someone out
is to get right down,
with your belly down in it as well,
alongside them
and start digging them out.
As time ticks on, the mud is now
not their only problem.
As the job progressed,
and as it became more complex,
the issue of the tide
started to concern me.
At one point, the horse
was breathing quite heavily.
After a discussion with Ian,
we established that he was in quite
a bit of distress and discomfort
and that did make things
a little bit more critical.
He didn’t want any before.
He was drinking water out of my hand
a couple of times.
And you could see with his
breathing that it sort of eased,
which was great.
Can you feel that’s gone under?
Ian talking to Bobby did help,
I think we all found ourselves,
at one point, talking to Bobby.
So we were all rooting for him.
Then, after more than three hours
digging…
Go on, lad.
Go on, go on.
Bobby was obviously quite tired,
but he still had the energy in him,
that once he felt a bit of freedom,
a bit of movement in his legs,
he was trying to stand up
and trying to free himself,
which unfortunately hindered
the process.
After only a few metres,
Bobby gets stuck again.
His instinct to bolt is landing him
right back in trouble.
Still with almost 300 metres of mud
between him and the shore,
the chances of getting him to safety
before the tide returns
are falling fast.
After the horse got stuck
the third time,
it did cross my mind that we could
be fighting a losing battle.
We had about an hour left
before the tide would have been
up to us, so it was starting
to get a little bit worrying,
because three and a half,
four hours of digging,
and he was very, very stuck
in the mud, and going nowhere fast.
The crew need to come up with
yet another plan.
As they can’t get the horse
to solid ground,
they decide to bring
solid ground to him instead.
It was very much a team effort…
..using our equipment,
our mud boards,
and our mud rescue techniques.
But having the extra hands there,
from the fire brigade and the
coastguard, were definitely needed.
Everybody played a part there.
We had to get him out of that mud,
because he was really starting
to dwindle, that horse.
You know, he was tired.
We were all tired.
It was a case of, “Right, we’ve all
got to give it one big last push.”
So we had strops round his backside,
round his legs and round his tail.
And we all said, “Right, let’s go.”
We all counted to three,
and we pulled.
There were seven of us physically
pulling that horse out of the mud,
and it needed every inch
of our strength
to get that horse out of that mud.
And we pulled, and we shouted,
“Come on, Bobby, get out.”
And he came out.
And he seemed to know where
to go to, and stood on the board,
and it was such a relief.
It was the hardest thing
I think I’ve ever done.
After the shout, we did get a call
to say they got it back to the…
..paddocks where it was kept,
and it was doing well.
It was scary.
I think it was just traumatic
for me and Bobby,
like, both together.
But obviously,
not now he’s like this.
I love him to bits.

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