A HORSE has had to be put down in the Lake District after sinking in 'quicksand-like' mud.

Police have only just released details about the incident which happened on March 7, but warn that despite the recent improvement in weather conditions, riders should still be aware.

Police say many routes used by horse riders remain extremely wet and muddy, which 'presents additional risks to horses'.

The incident happened at 8.30pm in a field near Castlerigg in Keswick and involved a 25-year-old horse called Sam.

A 20-year-old woman, from Keswick, found that her horse had sunk and stayed with it it for almost two hours until it could be freed by rescuers, said police.

A vet sedated the animal and firefighters managed to free the horse but it had to be put down for medical reasons, said officers.

In a statement released through Cumbria Police, the woman stated: “The experience was terrifying and heart-breaking. 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 15 years and have never had a drama. I didn’t see any signs and didn’t realise it was so boggy."

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

PC Alan Taylor of 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.”