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RIVER’S RESCUE: Community members rescue abandoned horse
River's rescue pic1
This severely malnourished horse was dumped at Laird Park near Grayson Road in Modesto on Monday. A man and his son fishing near the park heard the commotion and found the abandoned horse and were able to call for help (Photo contributed).

A horse abandoned out in a rural area of Stanislaus County has likely never experienced much love or care, but a group of strangers brought together by his plight are working to show him a better life.

The details of this horse’s life are unknown, except that he was severely neglected. But the story of his rescue began Monday night when he was dumped at Laird Park near Grayson Road in Modesto. Fortunately, Cesar Garcia and his son were out in the area doing some night fishing. The father and son were getting ready to head in when they heard a vehicle coming along the side trail by the riverbank. Garcia wrote on Facebook that he could see it was a dark colored truck pulling a single horse trailer. It was followed by a gray minivan. Garcia wrote that he could hear the horse was making a commotion, but didn’t think too much of it until he laid eyes upon him.

There on the ground was a skeletal horse with open wounds and in an obvious state of distress. Whoever had left him there was nowhere to be seen. Garcia immediately called the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department to report his discovery and dispatch sent out some deputies to help.

Listening on a scanner and hearing of the horse’s plight was an individual who knew Bobbie Carne was someone who could help and placed a call to the Denair woman.

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Bryen Camden saw a post on Facebook about the abandoned horse and said he knew he had to help. Camden will be providing the newly named River Maximus a permanent home when the horse leaves veterinary care (Photo contributed).

Rescuing animals is nothing new for Carne, who has been doing this kind of work for nearly 20 years.

“It’s typical for me to get these types of calls when someone learns of an animal in need,” Carne said. “I’ve done a lot of rescues and seen some pretty horrible things done to animals, so not much surprises me anymore.”

Even with her years of rescue, Carne was taken aback at the condition of the horse, who she named River.

“He really was almost at that point of no return,” she said.

Carne said the horse was emaciated and had several pressure wounds around the body. River also had fairly fresh wounds to the face and side that Carne believes were sustained because he wasn’t tethered in the trailer when whoever it was drove him to the park.

“Him [Cesar Garcia] calling the sheriff made the life or death decision tilt for the horse,” Carne said.

Clad in her pajamas, Carne joined the deputies out at the park and they started forming a plan to get River the help he needed. A man who lives in the area saw the situation and came back to the scene with a double wide horse trailer. Working together the team was able to get River on to his feet, into the trailer and transported to Taylor Veterinary Hospital in Turlock.

“The horse was in a severe state when it arrived here and the blood work showed it had been experiencing a prolonged state of starvation,” said Taylor Veterinary Practice Manager Christa Carlos.

The Henenke horse body condition uses a scale of one to nine to evaluate the amount of fat on a horse’s body with nine being overweight.

“A typical horse would be around a five or six,” Carlos explained. “River was at a two.”

Under the care of Dr. Rebecca Curry, the team at Taylor Veterinary began treating River’s wounds, giving him medication and feeding him nutritious food at a steady pace. It’s a delicate balance between being too slow and feeding too much too quickly, which could cause the horse’s system to go into shock.

“He’s going to need a lot of TLC, work and time,” Carlos said.

“He’s getting the help he needs, but he’s not out of the woods yet,” Carne said.

Both Carne and Garcia used Facebook to share the horse’s story. Most reactions were of heartbreak for the horse and anger for whoever caused his distress. For Bryen Camden of Riverbank the reaction was determination — to give River a better life.

“It was more of an instant calling,” Camden said. “I saw the post almost immediately and I knew I had the room so there really was no question. I already have two rescued horses of my own and I was raised on a ranch in Kentucky so this is really what I know.”

Camden reached out to Carne and told her he would take care of River once released from veterinary care. He went out to see River on Tuesday and is hopeful he will be coming to his new home on Thursday.

“He did smile for me when I gave him scratches. He genuinely seemed relieved,” Camden said.

“You can tell that he is a fighter,” Carne said. “You could see the relief on his face when we started helping him.”

Camden has decided to keep the name River but added Maximus to it, to show the inner strength the horse has shown thus far.

Though the day to day care will be Camden’s responsibility, there is a whole community pulling for River.

“When I made the decision to take him, I was under the impression I would be all on my own,” Camden said. “I was completely surprised to see the level of support he has received from the community and I can’t even find the words to express my gratitude.

“I would just say that horses are a big responsibility and people need to do research before purchasing or adopting them. There is simply no excuse for River’s conditions. He’s been deliberately starved and neglected. There are too many rescues who would gladly have picked him up long before this. And I’d like to thank the Stanislaus County Sheriffs and animal control and all those involved in this beautiful boy’s second chance. You’re all amazing.”

Carne is the point person for those wishing to donate to help cover the costs of River’s treatment and ongoing care. She can be reached via email at