When Cody Scott spotted the horse, only its head and neck were visible above the creek ice.
"It wasn't thrashing," he said. "It was just standing there. It wasn't treading water."
The area around the frozen creek has muskeg, and the horse was stuck in the mud and sinking deeper and deeper.
Scott discovered the horse Monday afternoon stranded in the frigid waters of Lloyd Creek, north of Rimbey, about 60 km northwest of Red Deer.
Cody had been shovelling snow near his farm when a neighbour said the horse had escaped.
They trudged down to the frozen river, and saw the distressed animal immersed in the ice.
When attempts to free the 1,500-pound animal failed, Scott ran back to his house and called the RCMP. While he waited for the local fire department, he called some friends for help and strapped his Go Pro across his chest so he could capture the rescue on camera.
'We had to keep going with it'
By the time he returned, a handful of neighbours had assembled.
They tried to pull the horse out with rope and a winch, but the bucking animal could not pull its hooves from the mucky riverbed.
Scott used his snowmobile to try to haul the struggling beast from the water, but the belt snapped under the weight.
Running out of options, the men finally managed to pull one of the horse's legs out of the ice.
"I decided to reach down into the water and tie a rope around her one foot, and at that point we were able to leverage one of her feet onto the ice," Scott said.
"And as soon as we did that, she was able to give herself some help and put her other foot on top of the ice.
Though the horse managed to place its hooves on the ice, it remained trapped.
'Very cold and exhausted'
"Just to see half the horse out was a big relief," Scott said. "We were all happy and excited to see we were getting somewhere with it.
"But we still had the back end of the horse in the water. We were only halfway there and we had to keep going with it."
By then, more manpower had arrived. Firefighters made their way onto the ice and finally pulled the animal out.
Exhausted, the horse collapsed onto the ice.
"We were pretty relieved to get the horse out, but we knew we still had to battle hypothermia which had set in," Scott said.
Randy Jorgenson, whose son owns the horse, said the rescuers worked in chilly temperatures without complaint.
"I got two frozen fingers, my boys got a couple of frozen fingers," Jorgenson said. "Lots of tired out people. It was a bigger task than any of us knew."
Jorgenson said the animal has made a full recovery and even earned a nickname.
"We call it Lucky now, because he is still alive. He's out there right now playing with the others."