Thanks to a quick-thinking motorist, more than three-dozen volunteer firefighters and a backhoe, Santana, an 8-year-old horse, is back on his feet after a rescue from being trapped under thick ice in a small pond in Rutland Town.

“He’s pretty nervous,” Amy Webster, Santana’s owner, said as she petted her horse’s mane moments after he stood up for the first time after being freed late Tuesday afternoon from the icy pond on the grounds of a stable on Dorr Drive. “He’s really cold. I’m just relieved.”

The horse appeared quite cold, but healthy, Rutland Town Fire Constable John Sly said after the 90-minute rescue was complete.

“It looks like it’s going to have a happy end,” Sly said. “You can see some scrapes on the inside of his legs, but nothing is broken. He wouldn’t be standing if there was.”

No one quite knows for sure how long Santana was caught under the ice.

It was a motorist driving on Route 4 overlooking the stables who first spotted the horse in the water.

“I was driving by and looked out and saw the horse in the pond,” said Craig DeCato of Clarendon. DeCato said he turned around, went to the scene and then called police.

“I have no idea how long he was in there,” DeCato said of the horse. “I’m just glad I could help.”

The pond, which measures about 30 feet by 70 feet, is located on the grounds of the expansive fenced-in pasture.

Sly said about 90 minutes passed from the time DeCato first spotted the horse until the animal was finally free and back on his feet around 6 p.m. Tuesday. The horse was on its side with only its head above water.

“He got in from the western edge of the pond and in trying to struggle, he got wedged halfway under the ice,” Sly said. “He had his right-side legs underneath the ice and his left-side legs on top of the ice. He just couldn’t get his footing.”

The firefighters and rescue workers placed straps around the horse and tried to pull the roughly 1,200-pound animal from the 3-foot-deep water to no avail.

“Don’t give up on him yet, he’s a fighter,” a woman told Webster, the horse’s owner, who was in tears as she watched.

In addition to the group of rescuers, about a dozen other onlookers gathered near the pond. Several other horses boarded at the stable kept a safe distance.

A neighbor then arrived at the scene with a backhoe. The straps around the horse were attached to the backhoe, which then slowly pulled the horse up out of the water.

Once free from the pond, the horse did not rise to its feet. Several blankets were placed over the horse and for about 20 minutes, the group of rescuers tugged and pulled to try to get the horse to stand.

At one point, firefighters considered filling airbags under the horse to get him up.

However, that didn’t prove necessary.

After getting hot water splashed over his legs, Santana finally rose to his hooves.

“Good job, Santana,” one woman onlooker shouted.

“As soon as he found out he was going to be put on top of airbags, he decided to move,” one firefighter said.

About 40 people helped in the rescue effort, including members of the Rutland Town Fire Department as well as firefighters from Clarendon and Ira.

Rutland City Police officers also pitched in at the scene, as did several other people with horses at the stable.

Following the rescue, several of the firefighters went up and petted the horse.

“He hates water,” Webster said of Santana.

“He’s probably going to hate it even worse now,” replied David Schauwecker, one of the volunteers who helped rescue the horse.