WHEN Mandy McKinnon heard a 'thunderous' splash at her family's horse training property in Mullum Creek she feared the worst.
Sure enough, when she hurried outside she saw one of her favourite horses, two-year-old mare Millie, in the middle of the swollen creek, struggling to keep her head above water and being swept downstream.
Millie's heavy canvas rug was dragging her under the storm-fed current and Mandy knew she had to act fast. She jumped into the two-metre deep torrent and swam to the drowning mare.
She ducked under the murky water and removed the rug from the horse, which was injured after hitting a tree on its headlong plunge, and 'panicking, but not being silly'.
Mandy, after summoning her father Murray with a "really loud" whistle, couldn't get Millie up the steep, slippery bank, so she wedged her front legs and chest in the fork of a tree in the water and out of the main flow.
Murray ran off to phone the neighbours who rushed to help, but it was 50 minutes before they got slings around the distressed mare - a task requiring Mandy, already freezing cold, to go underwater to secure them under her belly.
They then blindfolded Millie and lifted her out with an excavator. She was shocked and shaky but with no serious damage, was soon back on her feet.
A soaked Murray went and had a lie-down and Mandy thanked the stars for recent police academy fitness training she'd been doing - learning to swim fully clothed.
The McKinnons are not sure what spooked Millie but she had careered down a hill, not been able to pull up and leapt blindly into the flooded stream.
She had knocked out some teeth when she hit the tree and has a gash on her leg, but is recovering well and the McKinnons and their vet are confident she will go on to a racing career.
"She's a real trouper," Mandy said.
The same could be said of the 23-year-old horsewoman, who risked her own life to save her favourite mare's.