Deborah Hopkins of Bohemia woke up Wednesday to a distressing sight: Her quarter horse was standing belly deep and shivering in the covered, backyard in-ground swimming pool.

Within an hour the horse was bailed out of her predicament, thanks to a good idea from Hopkins, plenty of elbow grease from police -- and six bales of hay.

Somehow, possibly frightened during the night by a deer, the 2-year-old named Quartermoon -- known as "Q" -- had gotten out of the nearby barn and jumped the fence into the backyard, Hopkins said.

Before police arrived in response to the 8:34 a.m. call, Hopkins devised a plan to build a platform in the water -- around 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep -- out of bales of hay.

The idea was to provide Q, 64 inches tall at the shoulder, with "something she could step on closer to the [pool] edge," said Hopkins, 61.

A team that included Suffolk County emergency service officers constructed the platform, covering it with plywood supplied by a neighbor, and strips of rubber, Hopkins said. Then, assisted by a strong strap around the horse's hindquarters, the crew coaxed Q up onto the makeshift shelf, and, with much splishing and splashing, pulled her out of the pool.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Apart from a banged-up right hind leg and some swelling, Q was "doing really well," having been checked out by her equine veterinarian, who gave her, among other things, a shot for pain. Q also got a rubdown with some beach towels, as well as a nice warm mash, Hopkins said.

During the ordeal, Hopkins said all she could think of was the possibility of Q breaking a leg.

In the wake of the happy ending, she said she was "totally relieved and thankful to all those guys who all worked so hard. . . . There was a lot of manpower there."

As a veterinarian herself -- she treats small animals at Meadowbrook Animal Hospital in Freeport -- Hopkins says she has a mantra about horses: "If there is a way to hurt themselves, they will find it."