PRINCE Philip would no doubt be delighted with the never-give-up ingenuity displayed by 12 Noosa High students in saving a trapped Shetland pony from certain death at Kin Kin Creek.
The students were returning from a canoe expedition of the Noosa Everglades as part of their bronze level Duke of Edinburgh Awards program, which Prince Philip chairs, when they spotted the small horse stuck fast in the mud beside a steep bank, shaking and exhausted.
It was a real life test of what the Duke of Edinburgh awards are all about - collectively mustering resilience, respect, endurance and teamwork.
School teacher and expedition leader Dean McMaster said the team devised a plan for half of them to leave their canoes and swim to the bank where they began to dig the pony out of the mud with their hands.
"The other students formed a protective circle around the rescue scene with their canoes," Mr McMaster said.
"After 30 minutes of exhausting work it became evident that the bank was too steep and muddy and log-congested for the animal to get out.
"The group then decided to swim the animal 200m downstream to a less steep location."
This task was given to two of the strongest swimmers, who were surrounded by a protective canoe flotilla. At the new site, the pony at first sank into the mangrove mud.
"But after another 30 minutes of determined effort the kids gave a whoop of delight, as the animal was able to struggle free," Mr McMaster said.
"The kids walked the animal to the Kinaba information centre where it was given the kids' expedition food and tethered in a safe place.
"Parks and Wildlife officers were contacted and the students are now hoping this cute little pony has been reunited with its owners."
In the end the expedition, designed to promote the students' self-esteem, paid off more than they could have ever imagined.
Mr McMaster was "very impressed" with their commitment to the execution of a "real life rescue".
"It was no easy task for the kids to dig this heavy animal out of the mud. The level of care, protection and encouragement they gave both the pony and each other in a potentially dangerous environment was commendable," he said.
"Kids like the ones on this program often get a bad wrap and, sure, they demonstrate irresponsible behaviour at times.
"In my experience, however, I have found that when faced with real life challenges, these kids usually shine through and make everyone around them very proud."
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