A FEW bales of hay are the reason Melinda Turner managed to rescue five of her most prized possessions after last weekend's flood emergency in Port Macquarie.
The former Port Macquarie jockey was forced to evacuate early on Saturday morning, but it wasn't after the heartbreaking decision to leave the two chestnuts, two browns and a pony behind.
Mrs Turner had already spent all Friday night listening to her animals in distress as the rain tumbled down and her Fernbank Creek residence became cut-off.
"The water came up really quickly, so I moved them all to the stables which is the highest part of our property besides the house," she said.
"I could hear them whinnying in the dark on Friday night and I was convinced on Saturday morning at daylight they weren't going to be there.
"High tide was supposed to be 2am (Saturday morning), but it continued to rise after that. On the Friday night they had their heads just out of the water."
With the water rising, Mrs Turner made a number of panic-stricken phone calls to emergency services before other family members came to the rescue in a tinny.
At around 7am on Saturday the family - including husband Jason and two-year-old son Tommy - were ferried to safety, but it had to be done without the horses.
"We couldn't swim them out because it was about two kays so we swum them from their stables across to the balcony and we had about 10 centimetres left before the water went in the house," she said.
"We had a little bit of balcony left to leave the horses there so we left them there all day Saturday."
After moving the horses to higher ground, they had to hope they stayed where they were despite having no fencing to keep them there.
"I'm convinced the only thing that kept them there was we put some hay there and they probably knew it was a safe spot so it would have kept them busy for a few hours," she said.
Early on Sunday morning the Turner's and a number of their friends returned to the property in an attempt to walk the horses out on low tide.
But first they had to wade through chest-deep water.
"We were just hoping there would be five little horses standing there when we went back, but we weren't sure if all of them were going to be still there; it's amazing," she said.
"The water was so deep that if they had have ventured out into it they wouldn't have survived.
"There was no ground left but the balcony for kilometres and we only had one entrance left to get them up to the balcony, which was the one we used originally.
"I don't know if they would have found that again if they got off the mound."
Outside of a minor bout of pneumonia and a few cuts and abrasions, the horses are okay.
"I didn't think it was going to be a happy ending; I just couldn't believe we had five horses and a house because the water was lapping at the side," she said.
"It was a matter of a couple of centimetres from coming in the house, but we're one of the lucky ones."
Article courtesy of Australian Community Media and the Macquarie Port News