PORT HURON, Mich. -- Amanda Thorson's 15-year-old appaloosa gelding hasn't always gotten much love for his looks.

But Tuesday, Moonshine proved his worth.

"It's weird because everybody that's ever seen my horse is like, 'Look at that mule, isn't he so ugly?'" the 18-year-old Yale woman said.

Tuesday evening Thorson was working to move Moonshine to a new barn. The usually easy-going gelding refused to load into the trailer.

Thorson said it was unusual, but because the new barn wasn't far, they decided to walk.

Her friend, Miranda "MJ" Ross, rode Moonshine bareback down Jeddo Road, while Thorson and Jacy Huntley followed in a vehicle.

Then Moonshine started spinning in circles and refusing to go forward. When Thorson turned off the vehicle to try to figure out what the problem was, she heard a faint cry for help.

"Could see behind the barn an old man, who we never knew ... We run back there and as soon as we turn the corner we see he has a lawnmower on him and he's pinned," she said.

Thorson said she and Ross knew they needed to lift the tractor.

"We're two farm girls, we can do this," she said. "He pulls out his leg and I see a puddle of blood."

Ross called 911 and Thorson said they worked to comfort the man.

She credits her horse for alerting them to the man's need, something his relatives are thankful for.

Melissa Barney said her father-in-law, Pastor Leonard Barney, remains in a Detroit hospital recovering from the accident. She said he had the lawnmower in the bed of his truck and was setting up ramps to remove it when it slipped and fell on him.

"He laid there for like 45 minutes, he was just praying for God to send him someone," Melissa Barney said.

She said he suffered several fractures and puncture wounds. She said the impact was so hard the deck of the lawnmower bent.

Melissa Barney also believes Moonshine should be credited for discovering her father-in-law.

"It was just amazing how God worked the whole situation out, and we have been laughing, though, since we found out what happened. Moonshine saved the pastor, what a sense of humor God has," she said.

Thorson said she'll be hanging a sign that reads "Hero Horse" on Moonshine's stall during the St. Clair County 4-H and Youth Fair next week for those who want to say hi to the gelding.

Contact Liz Shepard at (810) 989-6273 or lshepard@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @lvshepard.