LARKIN VALLEY — Erika Reid was moments away from putting down Tam. She had the syringe full of drugs in her hands, looking for a vein when rescuers arrived.

The 30-year-old blind Appaloosa had stumbled into the deepest part of a swampy patch bisecting a pasture on Larkin Valley Road and was sinking into the mud.

Reid, who was returning from a ride on Tam's 6-year-old son, witnessed the accident. When she jumped in alongside the horse, Reid found herself immersed to the waist, and she had to claw her way out to find a better spot to hold the horse's head above the water. Tam was shaking, the beginning of hypothermia. "I was going to put her down rather than see her drown," Reid said.

Felton Fire Protection District's large animal rescue team was at least 25 minutes away when the call came in 12:47 p.m.

Cal Fire Pajaro Valley Battalion Chief Greg Estrada was on Freedom Boulevard and arrived about seven minutes later. He said time was running out, and though using the rescue truck's winch to pull the horse free wasn't the first choice, it was the only option.

"We were afraid we were going to lose her, she was going to drown," Estrada said.

Using the winch, the Cal Fire crew was able to pull Tam from the water so she was no longer in danger of drowning. Felton firefighters arrived at 1:28 p.m. and used a rescue sled to free her from the marshy ground. Tam was up and about three minutes later, her coat matted in mud,

but otherwise apparently unharmed.

"The Cal Fire and Felton Fire response was critical to the rescue," said Santa Cruz County Animal Services Field Supervisor Todd Stosuy, who assisted. "The animals of Santa Cruz County are lucky to have them on their side."

As Reid walked a blanketed Tam across the pasture, the rest the herd, a half-dozen horses including Tam's son, raced to the horse's side, whinnying and nuzzling her.

"She's OK," Reid told them.

So fine that Tam protested with jerks and whinnies being led up Larkin Valley Road to a stable for a couple of days of recovery.

Reid said Tam didn't want to be away from the rest of the herd, especially her son who's watched out for her since she went blind four years ago due to a condition known as moon blindness, common to Appaloosas. If she hadn't been riding him, he would have guided Tam to the shallow crossing the other horses used, Reid said.

Reid said she tried to move Tam from the pasture a few days ago, but she refused, rearing and bucking to avoid being loaded into a trailer.

Reid seemed calm despite the emotion of the incident. She said she had been a veterinary nurse for 20 years before going into real estate, and said she's helped rescue horses in the past, including during the nearby Trabing Fire in 2008. Getting help for one of her horses was a new experience.

"I'm always the one doing the rescuing," Reid said.