Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


Owner thanks firefighters after pony rescue

An owner has thanked Essex County Fire and Rescue Service firefighters who rescued her pony after he had fallen in a ditch. 

An on-call firefighter whose full-time job involves working with horses put his expertise into action when he was called to rescue a pony.

Firefighters were called to Thorpe Green Equestrian Centre in Colchester Road, Thorpe-le-Soken on Wednesday (22 October) after Dom, a 36-year-old retired riding school pony, had fallen into a ditch.

Donna Smith, who runs the centre and DS Holistic Equine Therapy, has owned Dom for 25 years.

She said: “Because he has chronic arthritis in all four legs he roams the 70-acre site to keep him supple. He got some electric fencing wrapped around his leg; it pulled him over and he slid into the ditch.

“Me and my father tried to use a forklift truck to lift him out for about an hour but we couldn’t get him over the lip of the ditch.”

Donna called 999 at 8.38am and on-call firefighters from Weeley Fire Station were first on the scene, led by Crew Manager Mark Kilbey. 

Mark is an equestrian stud manager, looking after 25 horses and taking them to competitions around the country. 

He used his experience to keep Dom calm until the Animal Rescue Unit arrived from Chelmsford Fire Station.

Mark, who has been an on-call firefighter for eight years, said: “The horse was really calm so we just made him comfortable until the Animal Rescue Unit arrived. I explained I have worked with horses all my life and they were happy for me to get involved. It was a well-orchestrated rescue and the pony was soon back on his feet, I was really impressed with our Animal Rescue team.”

Firefighters used specialist equipment to lift Dom to safety at 10.05am and left him in the care of Donna and a vet.  

Could you be an on-call firefighter? 

On-call firefighters live or work within five minutes of an on-call fire station and are paid to protect their community. To find out more visit It is a great way to use your skills and experience, like Mark did in this incident.

Mark said: “One of the benefits of an on-call station is the experience the crews have. We’re lucky to have an electrician and a builder, for example, and one day they could be called on the use those skills – just like I was.”

Thankfully Dom is not suffering any ill-effects from the ordeal. Donna, who is going to make a donation to The Fire Fighters Charity as a thank you, was particularly grateful for Mark’s expertise.

She said: “The firefighters were amazing; such lovely people. It was so reassuring for Dom to have Mark there because he knew about horses and kept him calm.”

Page last updated 29 October, 2020

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