COMMUNITY HELP: Isabella and Sophie with the mum Gemma and Wayne Kerle, holding the slowly recovering Bella.
COMMUNITY HELP: Isabella and Sophie with the mum Gemma and Wayne Kerle, holding the slowly recovering Bella. Craig Warhurst

Bella the horse's mystery illness brings community together

THE anguish of nursing a suffering pet has a silver lining for Cooloola Cove horse owner Gemma Antrobus.

The dedicated horse lover has had the support of the Tin Can Bay community since spending five cold nights camped in her patient's Teewah Point Rd paddock.

The worried owner decided to stay by her horse Bella's side, since the healthy quarter horse paint collapsed on Saturday and couldn't get up.

Test results have cleared the animal of the hendra virus, but concerns arose linking the horse's health decline to the hendra vaccination she was given 10 days previously.

Local vets and Equine Veterinarians Australia have strenuously rejected the suggestion.

"It's terrifying when she tries to walk on her back legs; it looks like she's going to break her legs - it's just terrible," Ms Antrobus said.

"She looks like she's a horse that's about to die."

But hope in a desperate situation came in the form of many helping hands.

Ms Antrobus, who moved to the area from Dubbo just over a year ago, said she was shocked at the way the community banded together.

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Helpers erected a tent, an outside toilet, gazebos, barbecue and brought hot food as she stayed with the pet she describes as part of the family.

Tin Can Bay Family Butchery and Cooloola Cove Bakery and Cafe each donated the makings of a sausage sizzle to feed the group of 10 or so people on watch with Ms Antrobus.

The thankful coast resident said the support of the SES Tin Can Bay branch had also helped her cope with the unpredictable movements of the horse.

Donna Douglas, an SES worker, has been there to help when the unsteady creature moves around at night.

She was on call at 3.30am yesterday when Bella fell into a fence.

"Donna came in the night and took the fence down and put SES tape up to make it safer," Ms Antrobus said.

Ms Antrobus is awaiting more test results to provide answers surrounding Bella's illness.

In the mean time the horse lover has spent her nights keeping her unwell horse company.

"I haven't slept for three nights because my brain hasn't turned off," she said.

Her two young daughters Sophie, 3 and Isabella, 2, are also concerned about their favourite pet.

"She's a beautiful quiet horse for her age and really gentle," she said.

"She's one of the family."