AN ANIMAL lover risked his life to save a horse after it fell into a freezing river.

Dave McCormick dived into the neck-deep River Calder after four-year-old Juno, a Welsh cob, plunged into the water.

And now Juno’s owner has heaped praise on the 10-strong team involved in the 30-minute rescue operation, at Royle Equestrian Centre in Royle Road, Burnley.

Amanda Fitton, 40, praised Mr McCormick’s actions but described the situation as ‘really quite dangerous’.

She said: “Juno only came to us that day.

“She had a good explore up and down the field but with the river being as swollen as it was, she just tripped into the water.

“Then it was all hands on deck.

“She was in the water for 30 to 40 minutes. We just couldn’t pull her out.

“We called the fire brigade but fortunately Dave had got her out by then and she was able to get a foothold.

“He was well up to his chest in the water.

“He was fantastic – and all on his day off.

“They were all extremely brave and acted without any though for their own wellbeing.”

Mr McCormick, who works as an equine inspector for Briercliffe’s Horses and Ponies Protection Association (HAPPA), said the rescue was ‘a team effort’.

The ex-policeman, 60, said: “It was nobody’s fault.

“With the rain we’ve had recently the river was swollen and the ground collapsed underfoot.

“The banking was too high up for Juno to get out.

“She had gone into shock and I thought we were going to lose her. I got in and moved her to a lower part of the bank.

“I had the easiest job by going in to search – everyone else had to pull her out.”

Mrs Fitton, whose husband David, 48, was also part of the rescue team on Sunday, said Juno was recovering well.

She said: “She’s stiff to an extent but she’s back in the fields with her friends already.”