A pensioner said he was moved to tears after catching a dramatic horse rescue on film yesterday.
Les Holden took out his camcorder and began filming as emergency crews desperately fought to save the horse, which got stuck in quick-sand 150 metres off the ferry slipway at Knott End as the tide came in.
The 74-year-old said: “It’s the first time I have been in tears on the camera. You could just see the horse’s eye and the tide was coming so quickly. It had just seconds left.”
Mr Holden and his wife Joan, 72, were walking to the shop when they came across the emotional scene at around 10.30am.
They stood and watched as a small army of firefighters, RNLI volunteers and Coastguard workers fought to help the horse – called Ernie – and his young rider.
Another horse and rider were rescued easily, but they had to spend around 45 minutes battling the cold incoming tide to free Ernie.
“They sent for the RSPCA in case they had to put it down,” Mr Holden, of Seadyke in Knott End said. “They were holding the horse’s head up.”
Mrs Holden, who was also carrying a camera, added: “You could hear the rider shouting, ‘Come on, Ernie, come on!’
“This should be a tribute to them [those who helped the horse] really. They were knackered and up to their waist in water and mud.”
Ken Harcombe, from Fleetwood Lifeboat station, said: “The horse was extremely exhausted. There were 10 people around it holding its head up.”
Extra volunteers and Coastguard staff travelled across from Fleetwood on the ferry – which first called 999 after spotting the two horses in trouble – while a vet was put on standby to euthanise the animal.
Two nearby kayakers also helped out, while the horse’s two young riders watched on.
And the extensive life-saving effort finally paid off when Ernie was freed, carried back to shore while strapped in a makeshift life-jacket – made up of several human life-jackets, and checked over.
Once ashore, he enjoyed the attention of his rescuers, including a close embrace with a rescuer from Knott End Coastguard, and is now recovering well at his stables.
Ernie’s thankful owner is now expected to visit his rescuers to say thanks tonight, and wrote on Facebook: “Those horses mean the world to me and I’m extremely grateful.”
Station officer at Fleetwood Coastguard, Mark Sumner, said: “The horse was so tired it couldn’t even hold its own head up so people were taking it in turns to help.
“It had either given up or just trusted everybody because it didn’t struggle.”
A fire service spokesman said: “Within five minutes the whole area we were working on was under water. “We don’t want anyone going riding out there because it’s extremely soft sand.”