A young mother who bravely remained with her horse for three hours as the tide crept in on the creature after becoming trapped in quicksand-like mud has spoken of her relief following a daring rescue by the emergency services.
Daring Nicole Graham refused to let go of 78-stone Astro as she struggled to keep his head high, despite being exhaustion and the danger of drowning in the sea in southern Australia.
She said: “When I saw the dust from the rescue trucks I was so relieved. I was starting to get overwhelmed.”
The huge show horse sunk into the mud during a family ride in the afternoon along the coast near Geelong, south of Melbourne.
And before Ms. Graham could warn her daughter Paris to avoid the boggy trap, her horse was also partially swallowed up by the sludge.
Having dragged herself through the mud to help her daughter and the smaller animal on to firmer ground, Nicole returned to assist Astro.
Astro, however, was stuck fast, with her efforts to help him free himself pulling her deeper into the mud.
With Nicole boldly clinging to Astro’s neck, Paris raised the alarm – but it took rescuers three long hours to release the 18-year-old horse from the muck.
Fire crews worked alongside a veterinary team and a farmer with a tractor to free Astro – although an initial attempt to pull him to safety using hose and a winch was worryingly ineffective.
A helicopter was also put on standby as a last resort.
Ms. Graham told local newspaper the Geelong Advertiser of how she couldn’t leave her beloved horse by himself.
She said: “It was terrifying. It was also heartbreaking to see my horse exhausted and struggling.
“We went straight down and under. There was mud everywhere and every time I moved it sucked me back down. It wouldn’t let us go.”
“I’ve been riding here for 20 years and never had a drama,” added Nicole.
“I’ve never seen any signs and didn’t realise it was so boggy.”
Luckily, Astro – sedated by a vet to ease his distress − was pulled free with only minutes to spare.
Fire crew member Lieutenant Buckle said: “It was a race against the tide and fortunately we won.”
Follow us: @DailyMirror on Twitter | DailyMirror on Facebook