POLICE have called on horse owners to be careful following a wet winter.

It comes after a 25-year-old horse died when it plunged into 'quicksand-like mud' in Keswick.

Officers were called to assist the stricken horse on March 7.

The vet sedated the animal and firefighters managed to free the horse but the animal subsequently had to be put down for medical reasons.

Although there was no rider, it was an extremely upsetting and distressing situation for the owner. 

The horse, named Sam, was in a field near Castlerigg in Keswick when he became stuck.

A 20-year-old woman, from Keswick, stayed with her horse for almost two hours until it could be freed by rescuers.

"The experience was terrifying and heart-breaking," she said.

"Sam went straight down and under. There was mud everywhere and every time he moved it sucked him back down. It wouldn’t let him go.

"I’ve been riding for around fifteen years and have never had a drama. I didn’t see any signs and didn’t realise it was so boggy.

"When I saw the emergency services and vet I was so relieved. I was starting to get overwhelmed."

Fire crews worked with a veterinary team to free the horse. The firemen could not use much of their equipment as the appliance could not access the area due to the ground conditions.

PC Alan Taylor for Cumbria Constabulary said: "Horse riding is a hobby enjoyed by many in Cumbria where there are extensive opportunities to enjoy the beautiful countryside.

"However, to ensure your safety when out riding there are a number of precautions you can take such as wearing suitable protective and reflective clothing, carrying a mobile phone with you at all times and always telling somebody where you are going and how long you expect to be.

"This type of tragic incident can be avoided by such things as sticking to dry paths and walkways, checking routes on foot first, don’t go into flooded, wet, or muddy areas or take unnecessary risks. If in doubt take an alternative route or return the way you came. You never know how deep the mud may be.

"If you are unable to avoid the route ensure the horse walks, avoid trotting or cantering. Even slipping or falling can risk the horse through strains, ligament or tendon damage. At the least there is the inconvenience of a pulled shoe.

"If your horse does become stuck in mud, dismount and let go of the reigns, but only if it is safe to do so. Most horses can free themselves from boggy situations.

"Be aware of your situation, are there road users close by, walkers or cyclists?

"If anyone sees a horse stuck in mud please call the RSPCA emergency line on 0300 1234999."