It had seemed like a good idea. Itching like mad and unable to sleep, Penny the mare had gone on a late-night hunt for a gnarled tree trunk for a relieving scratch.
Unfortunately, her route through a thicket on the edge of her field took her straight into a bog.
In a flash the seven-year-old was buried up to her neck in cloying mud.
That sinking feeling: Firemen pass hoses under stricken Penny in a rescue operation that took four hours
That was where she remained until riding centre staff arrived on Sunday morning and went looking for her.
What followed was a race against time as rescuers battled to free her before her strength ebbed away.
Finally, following four hours of muddy work using a tractor, two crews of firemen had to haul Penny out with their bare hands after passing hoses under her belly.
Lift-off: A tractor is used before firemen restore to bare hands
Yesterday, she was cantering around in her field at the Barnston Riding Centre, in Wirral, Merseyside, as if nothing had happened.
All better: Penny in her field yesterday. She has been given a week off to fully recover
Centre office manager Jane Pickering said: 'We think she was trying to come back through the undergrowth a different way when it happened.
'Most of the mud was quite shallow, but she's quite a heavy horse, so all of a sudden she obviously just went "Woomph!" and she was stuck, right up to her neck.
'At one point her head started to feel really heavy, and we thought "Oh no, she's given up", but we gave her a shake and she pulled through.'
Despite her ordeal, she was immediately able to trot back to her field where the firemen hosed her down with warm water to clean her and bring her temperature back up.
Afterwards Gary Leith, watch manager of the crew from Croxteth, Liverpool, said: 'The horse was buried up to her neck and shoulders in a muddy pool and possibly could have been there all night. It took the best part of two hours to rescue her.
'Once we had a stable platform we had to use our hands to force the hose underneath the horse and use brute strength to pull her up.
'The vet was concerned and didn't think she would survive. But now she's fit and well.'
Penny is still a little stiff but otherwise unharmed.
'Everyone did a fantastic job, we can't thank the fire crews enough,' said Mrs Pickering. 'They were ever so patient and we're so relieved to have her back safe and well.'
A favourite at the centre because of her placid nature, Penny has been given a week off from being ridden to fully recover.
Meanwhile the hole in the fence has been patched up to prevent a repeat.
Pictured: Firemen's four-hour battle to save Penny the mare from drowning in the mud | Mail Online