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‘We plunged right into a black abyss’: rider’s bridleway warning after she and horse disappear below water

  • A rider who ended up entirely under water when her horse spooked and jumped into an innocuous-looking lake said both are lucky to be alive.

    Laura Keam wants to warn others of the risks after she and her five-year-old gelding Cruise went “into a black abyss” in Loe Pool, Portleven, Cornwall.

    Laura told H&H she was born and brought up locally and knows the area well; the “pool”, which is Cornwall’s largest freshwater lake, is on a bridleway she has often used.

    She explained that the lake is separated from the sea by a half-mile shingle “bar”, across which she and a friend rode on 16 October as part of a bridleway route.

    “My friend’s horse spooked mine and he leapt straight into the water,” she said.

    “He just jumped straight into the pool and I didn’t have time to take a breath; the next thing I knew, I was in darkness with a 600kg horse going mad next to me.

    “My friend’s horse was spooked too but thankfully she stayed on; she said she looked over and couldn’t see either of us, just bubbles where we’d disappeared under the water.”

    Cruise surfaced first but it was longer before Laura reappeared – then the current dragged them both under again.

    “The force had pulled me off him but by instinct, I’d kept the reins so I think he pulled me up to the surface, then we went down again,” Laura said. “There’s a culvert that pulls water from the pool into the sea with the wave pattern, which makes sense in that we got up and were pulled back under. It was awful. When we came up the second time, I’d taken in lots of water and felt I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to drown.”

    The shingle “bar” dividing the pool, left, from the sea

    Cruise was trying to swim to safety but Laura realised he was heading in the wrong direction; deeper into the pool rather than towards the shore.

    “I thought if I could pull his head round, he’d see my friend’s horse so with all my strength, I got him round but he was in a panic,” Laura said. “I was in front of him but his legs were thrashing about and I had to let go. I hadn’t realised the strength of the current; I was trying my hardest to swim but not moving anywhere, but then I saw him clamber out and that spurred me on, thinking if he could get out, I could too. I’m quite a fit person but my goodness, it took everything I had to get to the edge.”

    Neither Cruise nor Laura was hurt but Laura wants to raise awareness of the risks on the bridleway, which is much used and was featured on a vlog recently.

    “It’s a beautiful ride and I thought if people are boxing to it and don’t know the area, they won’t know the dangers,” she said.

    “A gentleman who used to work for the Coastguard said they’ve pulled eight humans’ and countless dogs’ bodies out in the area, and several people locally remember years ago, a horse bolted into the pool and it survived but its rider drowned. It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty and the pool looks beautiful, and so still, but the current was terrible. This was a freak accident but I’ve seen people camping along there, who might be tempted to swim, people walking dogs; the sea is horrendous in the area but I don’t think people realise the pool is equally dangerous.”

    She added that she has been told the pool is 40 feet deep in places.

    “There’s an old World War Two plane at the bottom of it,” she said. “For Cruise to go completely under; this 16.2hh, 600kg horse – when he plunged in, we didn’t touch the bottom, it was like a black abyss.

    “Thankfully, the only casualty was my phone, which got sucked out of my pocket – iPhone 11s don’t work underwater, apparently – I can’t believe how lucky we were.”

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