PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - Sunny and Belle were slowly dying in the deep snows of Renshaw Mountain days before Christmas.

The two horses became famous when a motley crew of Robson Valley residents brought shovels and dedicated hearts up the steep mountain and dug the trapped animals a trench to freedom. They had been left there by an Edmonton lawyer who got them stuck in boggy, unfamiliar terrain last fall on a backcountry excursion.

He came back to retrieve the the two pack horses, he said in media reports, but felt they were too far gone to save, and didn't believe anyone in nearby McBride would help him anyway.

He was wrong. Many volunteers joined the dig. The snow trench they dug was two metres deep and a kilometre long, but they freed the bedraggled horses on Christmas Eve.

They were sent to a secret location pending the SPCA's legal process to seize Sunny and Belle permanently.

Now they are convalescing at Prince George Equine Rescue, the North's premier horse-recovery centre located in Prince George.

"They are doing really good. They will have a complete recovery," said proprietor Nicola Hoiland, who currently has 15 rescued horses in her care, plus five of her own, three she boards for other people, and she also has four more rescued equines in foster care nearby.

Sunny (short for Sundance) the gelding, and Belle the mare, were of particular concern when they arrived. They had combinations of gaping foot sores, huge patches of missing hair frozen off their bodies, malnourishment and other near-fatal effects of their three months wasting away alone on the mountain.