FIFTEEN firefighters and vets spent four hours in a race against time to rescue a pony stuck up to its neck in mud.
Owner David Robinson, 64, who says his ponies have kept him alive after he was diagnosed with cancer, looked on anxiously as rescuers brought Dartmoor pony Lightning to safety.
Mr Robinson, a retired long-distance lorry driver from Gorebridge, and his daughter Donna Stewart, 43, discovered the stricken horse in his enclosure in a Pathhead field.
It is not known how long the pony had been stuck, but the rescuers said it could have been all night.
David said: “When I got there and saw him, all I could see was his nose poking out of the hole, it was just unreal.
“I just didn’t know who to ring – eventually I got in touch with the vet, then the firefighters came and the SSPCA.”
There were fears hypothermia might set in with Lightning having spent so much time in the cold.
Firefighters excavated a hole before digging out Lightning using shovels.
A 15-strong team made up of firefighters and vets then pulled him out of the sludge using a special harness.
Midlothian group commander Cameron Mackenzie described the operation as a “difficult rescue in poor weather”. But there was a happy ending after the pony was freed following a four-hour rescue operation.
There was a nervous wait to see if Lightning, who was too exhausted to get up on his feet, was injured as a result of his ordeal, but he is now back in the saddle after having been given a check over by vets.
David said: “I’m so relived to have him back. I just love my horses – I wouldn’t have wanted to lose them and I’ve come very close.”
David credits his ponies with keeping him alive after he was diagnosed with bowel cancer. He said: “Horses are the best therapy for cancer. They’ve kept me alive – I was told I only had 18 months to live and that was five years ago.”
Gemma Pearson, from the Dick Vet Equine Practice, said: “The horse is absolutely fine. After we had pulled him out we got some fluids in to him and some painkillers. Luckily, this is not a common thing to happen to a pony.”
Gemma gave some advice to owners who find themselves in this situation. “The first thing you should do is ring a vet and the fire service – never try and pull the horse out by yourself.”