A new safety warning has been issued by Coastguards after an exhausted stuck horse was rescued from deep mud on Burnham-On-Sea beach on Sunday (April 14th), prompting a major operation.
Firefighters, plus crews from Burnham and Weston Coastguard, BARB Search & Rescue and Burnham RNLI were called to an area of the town’s beach near the low lighthouse at 10am amid concern for two horses and three people in mud.
The riders and one horse were quickly helped to safety, but a complex operation was needed to safely rescue the other horse. It was stuck up to the top of its legs in deep mud, having been ridden there by a rider unfamiliar with the beach.
With the tide coming in nearby, there was a race against the tide to complete the operation before the sea would have reached the animal.
Coastguards worked with the fire crews and an animal welfare officer to apply ropes to the animal.
BARB’s hovercraft and crews assisted, while the two Burnham RNLI lifeboats stood by at the tideline to assist. The RNLI shore crews and winching tractor were vital in helping pull the animal free.
Much to the relief of the emotional owners, who are from Frome, the horse was safely freed after a two and half hour operation.
A Burnham Coastguard spokesman said in a fresh safety message: “We do advise if the tide is out to stay on the firm sand, horses are very heavy and can easily break through the softer surface further down towards the water. With an incoming tide this could’ve ended in a different way.”
Gemma Griffiths, the Senior Maritime Operations Officer who was co-ordinating the incident in the Coastguard Operations Centre, offered further advice for walkers and riders: “Take care when walking or riding over these big expanses of tidal sand or mud and consider getting guidance from someone with local knowledge if you are at all unsure about your route. If you see anyone in trouble, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”
The rescue unfolded after a lengthy operation. A Coastguard spokesman added: “After a long, intricate process and with great care taken for the horse’s welfare there was finally steady progress made and the very tired horse, inch-by-inch, became free from its sticky confines.”
“Once it was freed the poor, exhausted horse took a few moments to gather itself and with a burst of energy got to its feet and was reunited with a very relieved owner.”
An RNLI spokesman added: “Our station’s shore crew volunteers were called into action, as they assisted a rescue crew from Bedminster Avon Fire Rescue in carrying heavy equipment to the scene. The rescue crew arranged large canvas strops around the animal, and on direction from the fire crew, the RNLI tractor driver used the tractor’s winch to assist in pulling the animal to safety.”
A BARB spokesman said: “Our hovercraft was launched from Burnham, and stood off at the top of the beach in an overwatch position, offering safety cover for all the crews working on scene.”
“BARB’s 4×4 Teams assisted in transporting various officers from the Fire & Rescue Service, and the moving of rescue equipment. Our Polaris multi-terrain vehicle was used to quickly and safely take one of the horse owners to their car and horse box to bring it to the beach to recover the animal once rescued.”
“A huge multi-agency operation took place to safely pull the horse free from the mud, which was complex and took over two hours. This was a successful operation and the horse’s relieved owners were grateful for the help of all involved.”