Firefighters came to the rescue in the nick of time when a woman found her beloved elderly, arthritic horse buried neck deep in mud in the River Wreake on Sunday afternoon.
Milly, who is nearly 25, had gone missing for hours after slipping into the water close to the field she exercises in at Frisby.
Owner Kayleigh Walling was distressed to find her submerged in the river and on the point of giving up her fight to escape.
She tried in vain to pull her out but it finally took four crews of firefighters to haul her to safety in the incident, on Mill Lane.
Kayleigh said: “Milly has terrible arthritis in her back legs so she couldn’t get herself out and she was up to her neck in the mud when I first saw her.
“She could have been in there for 24 hours and I don’t think she would have survived for much longer - she was really giving up at that stage.
“I couldn’t get her out so I just lay with her in the water hugging her until the fire service arrived.”
Kayleigh, who lives in Asfordby, has had Milly for 19 years and used to ride her in three-day eventing competitions when the horse was younger.
She was in Stamford watching the Burghley Horse Trials when it first became apparent the horse had gone missing.
Kayleigh’s grandfather, Pete Tierney, had taken her two young children to the field and it was three-year-old daughter Brooke who noticed Milly wasn’t there with the other horses.
When Kayleigh returned, she set about searching for her beloved horse with a friend, who spotted her in the river.
Two fire crews from Melton were among those who helped, after being alerted at 3.31pm, along with a technical rescue team from Leicester.
Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service said it responded to an emergency call stating that a horse was lying down and was stuck in the river.
Firefighters worked together to haul the distressed animal back to dry land.
“The fire crews were absolutely incredible,” said Kayleigh.
“I was in an absolute mess when they arrived but they were brilliant and I can’t thank them enough for saving my Milly, who is my best friend.”
She added: “Milly seems fine now. She ate three packets of mints after her ordeal and she has had a nice wander in her field.”
The area of the field where Milly ended up in the river has now been made more secure to prevent it happening again.