Horse rescue on the line - veteran pony put at risk by delayed rescue from stream

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A dramatic rescue of a pony trapped in a stream has left its owner thankful to the skills of fire and rescue crews but fearful over perceived lack of cover within Surrey Fire & Rescue Service.

The drama unfolded Sunday, 2 June 2 when Sam Foreman made her daily morning visit to her 27-year-old pony, Storm, who she stables at a smallholding in Worplesdon. She has owned him since he was nine months old.

“I arrived at about 8.30am and at first I couldn’t see him,” Sam said. “Storm was lying down in the stream when I found him, cold water washing around him.” Sam managed to put a headcollar on Storm but couldn’t pull him out. His back legs were stuck. The owner of the smallholding arrived and called the fire service."

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Not on duty

A crew from Guildford’s white watch soon arrived and assessed the situation. “They told me they were calling an animal rescue team, but it would be coming from Lyndhurst in Hampshire as the Surrey one, based at Painshill in Cobham, was not on duty that weekend,” added Sam.

By this time Storm was in a poor condition, having probably been in the water for several hours. “He was cold. He’s a Dales pony and a native breed, so quite hardy by nature. But he is old – in human years equivalent to an 88-year-old.”

The animal rescue team, with firefighters from Lyndhurst and also Winchester, arrived at about 11am. They carefully assessed the situation took numerous attempts to push a body bar under Storm. They put hay bales beneath him in an effort to make him more comfortable.

Sam continues: “Finally, after about an hour, they managed to pull Storm free. The vet had sedated him and was concerned that he might be suffering from shock, hypothermia and the fact that he had been down so long, lack of circulation, and weight on internal organs.

“There was no circulation in his back legs and at first he wouldn’t stand up. He was propped up by more hay bales and the fire crews then rolled him over. Finally, he stood up and staggered around for a bit.

“The vet said his temperature was very low and she gave him some painkillers.”

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Road to recovery

Happily, Storm is now making a good recovery from his ordeal, but Sam wonders how he came to be in the stream as she knows that he does not usually go anywhere near water.

Sam is extremely grateful to the fire crews but was alarmed at what appears to be a shortage of staff at Surrey fire stations. If the Surrey animal rescue team from Painshill had been on duty they would surely have arrived much quicker and her pony’s ordeal would not have been so prolonged.

Dealing with incidents

In a statement following the incident a Surrey Fire & Rescue spokesman said: “We have tried and tested plans in place to make sure we can always deal with incidents effectively and we continually monitor all our vehicles around the county, using new technology, so that people and equipment are in the right place at the right time.

“As a specialist appliance needing specific skills, the availability of the animal rescue unit is always subject to the availability of specially trained firefighters which naturally varies on a shift by shift basis, across the county.

“On the day of this incident, specialist assistance was requested from a neighbouring fire and rescue service – this is normal practice and we reciprocate for them when needed.”

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