Islanders plucked a tiny Shetland pony from certain death after she disappeared down a cliff in Foula on Sunday.
The 28-inch pony Kiss Kiss was spotted on a remote headland just before 5pm after it was noticed she was not with the herd.
Jim and Sheila Gear had been conducting a bird survey when they saw Kiss Kiss’ sister and older mares at the edge of a cliff. Glancing down, they saw grey and white Kiss Kiss on the headland known as Lamba Toon, 50ft below. Realising the four year old pony was stuck, they phoned the fire brigade.
Kiss Kiss is owned by the Gears’ grandson Paul, aged seven. His mother Penny, daughter of Jim and Sheila, said: “How she got there is a mystery. The headland is impassable for horses, although sheep do go there. But there is no water there and no way Kiss Kiss could have got herself up.”
By coincidence Penny and her brother Kevin form the island’s fire service. The pair were on fire practice at the time and knew there was an emergency when their pagers went off. Some of their cousins were visiting and they were pressed into service, scrambling down the cliff with ropes and water. A frightened Kiss Kiss, described as “very gentle”, was distressed and had to be caught, but eventually took a drink from Kevin’s hands.
The rescue took place by placing two halters round the pony in case one gave way, with a lead rope on each. Penny said: “Two men pulled the ropes from above and dad pushed from behind. We were placing Kiss Kiss’ feet so that she could get purchase.” The ground on the cliff is stony and grassy with sandstone blocks, she said, and the pony could not have managed by herself.
Neither could the rescue have taken place with firefighters in uniform – the fire crew decided on normal clothes, so as not to scare Kiss Kiss any more, and sturdy footwear with rubber soles.
Eventually Kiss Kiss (registered under her full name North Harrier Kiss Kiss) was hauled to the top of the cliff. Penny said: “She was very glad to see the herd again and greeted her sister and immediatedly went to eat green grass. She couldn’t have got up herself – she would have run around and fallen off the cliff or died from lack of water. If she’d been bigger there’s no way we could have towed her up and she was reluctant to go because she thought she couldn’t do it.”
The whole incident took more than two hours and a relieved Penny said: “It was a wonderful outcome and we’re very thankful. Thank goodness all that folk were there.”