IT was supposed to be a normal morning gallop for promising racehorse King's Officer on Seven Mile Beach.
But the drama that unfolded left two old surfers heroes with a tale to tell about the horse who tried to swim across the ditch to New Zealand.
"We found out he was an athlete that day," Shoalhaven Heads trainer Terry Robinson said.
"He wouldn't be here if it wasn't for a couple middle-aged surfers that saved him. They wouldn't take a thing for what they did and I haven't seen them again."
The drama started when the three-year-old threw his rider following a morning gallop, panicked and swam for the horizon. It was an adventure Robinson does not want to relive.
"I have been doing this for a long time and never had one out past the breakers," Robinson said. "They usually stop and come back to the other horses because they are basically herd animals. But he wasn't stopping.
"What happened was he shied at the end of the gallop went into the surf, hit a hole and tumbled and got rid of the rider.
"I think he must have hit his head because all of sudden he made a beeline for New Zealand. That's when things were starting to look desperate.
"We are very fortunate that the two guys with surfboards were on the beach and they saw what was happening and paddled out to get him.
"But the time they got out and got him you could barely see him or them, that is how far he had gone."
Robinson had time to contemplate what he was going to tell the owners when King's Officer.
"I was getting ready to ring the owners but what could I tell them? 'He just took off' and we don't know where he is? Well, we do know where is but we will need a boat to get him?'
"I tell you he wasn't in a rip or anything that, he was doing it himself and heading for New Zealand."
King's Officer was in the water for half an hour and ended his adventure with a black eye and exhaustion, which lasted two days. Amazingly, within two months he won a race at Moruya.
"I thought he would end up with colic because when a horse has an experience like that's what you would expect," Robinson said. "But he pulled up all right from it.
"He didn't eat up for a couple of days. He had a black eye where he must have kneed himself when he fell over but other than that he was fine."