Photo Credit: Coastal Horse Care Unit

After a horse fell into a riverbed and lay stuck, the community pressure to help him get out was enormous:


KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (21 November 2023) — Sometimes, efforts with the best intentions don’t have the desired outcome. This is one of the hard-to-swallow truths of life. But, this hardly means that those efforts shouldn’t be commended, or that heroes are any less heroic because, well, life happened. The rescue of Riverbed the horse is one of those stories that might not have a happy ending, but not for lack of trying, and not for lack of caring.

In fact, most of Riverbed’s story is about trying and caring. And community coming together to do their absolute best for an animal stuck, almost literally, against the odds.

In rural KwaZulu-Natal last week, a male horse fell into a river. The Coastal Horse Care Unit (CHCU) were alerted by locals who were urgently requesting assistance and wanted to help but did not know how.

When the CHCU responders arrived on site with rapid response, it became evident that this was a sticky situation. The horse, having been stuck for a fair amount of time, could not stand or move.

The word of the horse’s plight had soared through community groups and made its way to the Fire Department. The big challenge was not a lack of people wanting to help, but that there were no trucks with crane-like structures available to access the river and get him out.

The Horse Care Unit affirmed that the only solution was “sheer manpower”. Now, all those people eager to help could really get involved.

Of the eagerness, the CHCU shared: “Our phones lit up with people, emergency services and business owners calling to offer their assistance! The absolute flurry of assistance offered to the team and the trapped horse was inconceivable!”

Together, the community of helpers made the big rescue happen. Despite a flash hailstorm, the use of manpower and fire hoses to hoist the horse out of the riverbed and up the bank, worked.

It was no small rescue, and soon it was honoured by those involved naming the rescuee—’Riverbed’.

However, despite the community’s success in getting the horse out of his predicament, the aftermath saw another collective fight for life after Riverbed was taken to the CHCU’s unit for checkups.

“We all like to hear that this collective effort ends with a positive outcome for the sake of the horse, however it was not to be. The CHCU team worked tirelessly through the night with Dr. Rohwer making every effort to give him a chance to live…he fought so hard, but sadly, he succumbed to the sheer exhaustion of the two days fought while trapped in the river,” shared the Coastal Horse Care Unit.

This after the team worked relentlessly, with not a single member leaving his side right until the very end. Not even stepping out to take a meal break would make those involved leave Riverbed alone, for his survival was too important.

But, Riverbed’s story would come to an end despite this. And what is left behind is not bitter, as many followers of his rescue shared.

Instead, what’s left behind is the knowing that he was not alone up until that last breath, thanks to the CHCU team. And the knowing that before this, so many people ensured he would get out of that river one way or another and again, would not struggle in isolation.

So no, not every incredible effort has an incredible ending. But what are heroes if not symbols of trying anyway?

Sources: Coastal Horse Care Unit
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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