FIREFIGHTERS and a farmer came to the rescue after Merlin the pony became trapped upside down in a water-filled ditch.

Tracy Morris, who looks after the 21-year-old pony, thought his days were up when she discovered him stuck in the muddy channel.

However, rescuers came up with a wizard idea involving a mobile excavator, which removed the side of the ditch and enabled them to pull the 350-kilo animal to safety.

Merlin was in his field at Eagles Wood Farm, Sway, when he slipped into the narrow watercourse.

The 14-hand pony, owned by 18-year-old Samantha Brewis, was trapped for more than an hour before he could be hauled out.

Farm shop worker Tracy told the Daily Echo: “I knew he was alive because I called him and he made a noise, but it was touch and go.

“If he’d been there all night, he would have been dead – and it was a very close call by the time they got him out.

“Luckily he’s a very relaxed pony and didn’t panic.”

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said a vet from the specialist Barn Equine Practice in Wimborne, Dorset, sedated the animal.

He added: “A JCB digger operated by farmer, Richard Keffen, dug away the side of the ditch. This allowed firefighters to apply straps to the pony and drag him out.”

The firefighters included Hampshire’s rural safety officer, Jim Green, based in Lyndhurst. He said: “This was a challenging incident but teamwork and our expertise in this field ensured no one was hurt.”

Merlin is expected to make a full recovery from his ordeal, which occurred last Saturday.

Tracy, 37, added: “The vet looked him over and he only has a swollen left knee. It’s a miracle he’s OK – I can’t believe it.”