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The tide is high: Kinsale to the rescue!

Could the Kinsale crew rescue Paddy the horse from being swamped by the tide?

Paddy the horse, rescued by Kinsale RNLI

Photo: RNLI/Hetty Walsh

Helm Jonathan Connor and Crew Member Michael O’Sullivan with Paddy

It was a typical Sunday morning for Crew Member Michael O’Sullivan. He’d already been out early on exercise on the lifeboat. Back at home he’d made pancakes for his four kids. Time to relax and put his feet up? No chance. 

‘I was just sitting down for a cup of tea, and I was out the door again,’ remembers Michael. There was a call out for a horse stuck in an oyster bed in Bandon River, with the tide rising. Thankfully, someone had called the Coast Guard on 112 for help.

A crew of four raced to the rescue on their Atlantic 85 lifeboat. Michael describes the scene: ‘We found adults, kids in the water, frozen, with blue lips, in jeans and T-shirts. This was mid-winter. They didn’t want to leave the horse, stuck in the river. As far as they’re concerned, Paddy’s part of their family.’

The tall point-to-point racing horse was stuck fast, with water rising quickly up his body.

In his RNLI yellows, Michael managed to reason with the children to get out of the cold water to warm up. But Paddy the horse was scared of Michael: ‘His eyes opened up wide with fright when he first saw me in my helmet. So I lifted the visor, spoke to him.’

Paddy’s owner, Paul, stayed with him. Paul couldn’t swim, so the crew had to keep a particular eye on him.

Paddy the horse's only hope was the Kinsale crew

Photo: RNLI/Hetty Walsh

Paddy the horse's only hope was the Kinsale crew

Michael says: ‘We were under pressure with the tide rising and the crowd all watching. We had about 5 minutes left. Paddy drowning, with his foot stuck and the tide coming up, would have been absolutely horrendous.’

Paddy’s left hind leg was wedged in. The crew had bolt cutters onboard, but they weren’t strong enough for the thick steel bar of the oyster trestle. The water was rising over the horse’s back, with only his neck and head clear now.

Michael, who was familiar with horses from when he was a kid, had to carefully get behind the frightened animal. He explains what he did next: ‘I put my head underwater and reached down. As I put my foot down the back of his knee, he lifted his foot – a conditioning response from being shoed. I did it again, hit the back of his knee, wedged my foot under his hoof and it just popped out.'

From the shore it looked like a miracle, but Michael swears: ‘There was no magic, no horse whispering. We were really lucky.’

Minutes later, Paddy was safely back on dry land, with only a few scrapes and bruises to show for his ordeal.

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