A TEAM of 25 firefighters battled for three hours yesterday to save the life of a horse that slipped on an icy bank and plunged into a freezing river.
Corra the black Clydesdale was stranded up to her neck in the River Leven and faced certain death from exposure unless rescuers could shift her one-tonne bulk from the waters.
Eight fire crews raced to the scene of the accident near Leven, Fife, and worked in near-darkness and low temperatures to pull terrified Corra from the river.
At one stage, rescuers narrowly avoided serious injury as the panicked animal kicked out with its powerful back legs.
Even after finally rescuing the horse, rescuers feared she might die as a result of cold and shock but vets were confident last night she would make a full recovery.
The three-year-old fell down an icy bank on the edge of a field where it was grazing and may have been in the water for several hours before she was discovered at 7am.
Corra was unable to get out of the river because she was stuck fast in submerged tree branches.
To make matters worse, Corra was trapped partly on her side so the four feet of flowing water came up to her neck.
Watched by Corra’s distraught owner, Rose Currie, 50, a brave rescuer went into the water to attach ropes to the animal so that teams on the bank could pull her clear.
But because Corra was in such an awkward position, and so heavy, it took the combined muscle power of two dozen firefighters to drag her clear of the tree and out of the water.
The exhausted creature, lying on her side, had to be surrounded by rescuers to stop her rolling back into the water. Terrified, she kicked with her legs and rescuers were forced to jump clear.
Even after Corra had been calmed down, the team faced the considerable challenge of hauling her up 6ft-high slope.
Rose was too upset to speak about the incident having lost another of her beloved horses as a result of a broken leg earlier in the year.
But Margaret Horn, who helps out on West Meetings Farm where the accident happened, told how she raised the alarm.
The 34-year-old said: “I discovered Corra in the water and called the fire fighters around 7am. They have done an absolutely fantastic job.
“I have no idea how long she was in the water before I saw her.
“I think she probably just slipped in this morning because of the ice.
“It was so challenging, especially with her being stuck under the tree.
“We just felt useless with her being stuck on her side. She’s a big lassie to be pulled out, she weighs about a tonne.
“I just feel so relieved and ecstatic that she’s out and safe now.”
She added: “Rose just lost her other horse earlier this year with a broken leg so is obviously upset.
“She thought she was going to lose Corra at one point today during the rescue.”
John Stewart, the vet on the rescue team, said: “She’s doing very well, it’s been a really good outcome.
“We were worried but the blood supply is back to her tissues and muscles so she is walking about.
“Now we just need to get her warmed up and fed but it’s looking good.”
Dave Latto, a Group Manager with Fife and Rescue, led the team.
He said: “We were very keen to get her out of the water.
“We had special water rescuers, animal rescuers and the vet down here to help.
“She was in a very precarious position and we didn’t want her rolling back down into the water when she tried to get back on her feet.
“There are 25 fire fighters here but this is not a normal occurrence to rescue horses.
“She’s seems to be fine now which is great.”