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A LITTLE MAGIC MIRACLE; BEHIND THIS DELIGHTFUL SCENE OF A MARE AND HER FOAL IS A STORY OF A NEW LIFE'S TRIUMPH AGAINST THE ODDS.

t's a picture guaranteed to gladden the heart on any spring morning . . . a giant shire mare with her new-born foal in a life-affirming celebration of nature's goodness. But once you know the full story behind this happy scene it enters the realms of the miraculous.

For Magic the mare has given birth to her healthy foal just five weeks after sinking up to her neck in mud and freezing water. The heavily-pregnant county show champion could not pull herself out after toppling into a 6ft drainage ditch at Broad Farm, Acle near Great Yarmouth. It took 15 firefighters almost two hours to free her from the quagmire.

Then Magic faced another ordeal when she went into labour not only two weeks overdue, but also in the middle of a power cut in her stable.

Her 75lbs colt was finally born by torchlight and has now been named Acle Black Knight by her proud owner Bryan Banham.

Mr Banham, who keeps 27 pedigree shire horses at his stud farm, said: "He is a very handsome foal and should grow up to be a great stallion. Looking at him, you would never imagine how he and his mum had nearly died a few weeks ago.

"Magic had a very lucky escape indeed. But she is very strong. A less determined horse could have drowned or died of the cold after being stuck in the water for so long.

"The dyke she fell in had peat at the bottom so it turned the water into the consistency of porridge and there was no way she could get out on her own. But after being rescued she simply walked away after the vet gave her a clean bill of health."

Magic was spotted in the dyke by groom George Hook when he went to check on her and other horses grazing on marshland meadows.

Retired policeman George, 56, waded chest-deep into the dyke to attach a rope around Magic's neck and tried to haul her out with the help of six passing hikers.

They gave up after nearly an hour when George could no longer stand the cold. He then tried scooping away the steep banks of the dyke with a mechanical digger to make it easier for Magic to climb out . . . but still she was stuck.

In desperation he called the fire brigade to help. The first firemen on the scene decided Magic was too big for them to cope with, so a second crew and a rescue tender were summoned.

They attached a leather strap around Magic's rump, avoiding her abdomen because of worries that her foal might be harmed. The firemen finally dragged her free after George's digger turned the bank into a smooth slipway. Within seconds, she was on her feet again and was led back to her stable to enjoy a hearty meal of oats mixed with barley and nuts.

Local vet Ian McNicoll, who watched over the rescue, said: "She was getting near the point of suffering total hypothermia and dying.

"A lot of horses that fall into dykes end up drowning because they get so cold that they give up and their heads drop into the water.

"It was very fortunate for her that she was spotted early enough to get her out safely.

"The fact that Magic is a big shire horse and heavily pregnant made the rescue a lot more difficult."

Rescuer George said: "It's fantastic that Magic and her foal survived. The conditions were exceptionally muddy and after we got Magic out, I ended up stuck myself . . . so the firemen had to pull me free as well!"
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 20, 1997
Words:603
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