This was the horrific moment a courageous young woman fought to keep her pet horse calm as sea water closed in on him after he became stuck in the muck “like quicksand.” Nicole Graham, exhausted and mud-splattered, clung to her stranded horse Astro for three hours, holding his head up in a race against the water.
The 78-stone show horse had been entangled in quagmire-like muck and was in danger of dro.wning as the water rose around them. Miss Graham was out on an afternoon ride with her daughter along the seaside at Geelong, south of Melbourne, when Astro, 18, fell into the mud.
The tiny horse her daughter Paris was riding was nearly swallowed up by the muck before she could provide a warning. Miss Graham guided her daughter and the other horse onto firmer footing after dragging herself through the muck. However, Astro was immobilized, and her efforts to free him only ended in her sliding further into the muck.
Miss Graham remained at her horse’s side while Paris dashed to their car and dialed 911 for assistance. She held to his neck bravely, fearful that he would not be freed before the flood came in. Astro and Miss Graham were rescued from the muck after three ‘terrifying’ hours.
Miss Graham, who owns more than ten horses and operates an equine dental business, told the Geelong Advertiser how a pleasant afternoon ride had turned into a terrifying experience. ‘It was scary,’ she added. Seeing my horse fatigued and struggling was also painful. We descended and plunged beneath.
The muck was everywhere, and every movement dragged me back down. It refused to let us go.’
She returned to Astro after assuring her daughter and horse were secure, hoping that rescuers would come before the tide devoured the horse.
‘I’ve been riding here for 20 years and never had a drama,’ she remarked. I’d never seen any notices and had no idea it was that muddy. I was pleased to see the dust from the res.cue trucks. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed.’ ‘It was like quicksand,’ said fire lieutenant Roger Buckle, who was part of a rescue squad.
Firefighters collaborated with a local farmer, who offered a tractor, as well as a veterinary staff. The firefighters used hoses and a winch, but none of it worked. Astro was res.cued from the mud using a local helicopter as a final option.
The united rescue attempt was successful. Astro, who had been sedated by vet Stacey Sullivan, was removed from the muck with the help of the farmer’s tractor with minutes to spare before the water reached him.
‘It was a race against the tide that we won,’ said Lieut Buckle, who applauded everyone’s efforts, particularly Miss Sullivan’s expertise in sedating Astro, which made it easier to pull him free.
Miss Sullivan stated that Astro was dehydrated but had handled himself nicely. ‘A lot of horses don’t make it, and I think the chances of survival would have been much lower if the owner hadn’t been present,’ she added.