When A Raging River Pulled This Baby Horse Under, A Wild Stallion Instantly Knew How To React

It should have been a pleasant stroll across a reasonable smooth river, but then one tiny foal found herself in great peril when she was swept off her feet in the current. As she struggled desperately to find her footing, the horse was dragged beneath the water, and it seemed for a moment that she would be washed away forever.

The Tonto National Forest in Arizona has been home to a herd of stray horses for many years, but that designation as strays rather than truly wild horses is one that may impact their future. In fact, technically the horses are considered “unauthorized livestock” by law.

This is because when they were surveyed in 1973, the horses were all branded as coming from nearby Indian reservations. Therefore under current laws, they cannot receive the same protections as wild horses. And that’s despite the fact that the horses are no longer even being cared for or managed by the native tribes. Indeed, the animals live freely in the national forest.

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But the justification for the differentiation in protection is debatable. Back in the day, wild horses were granted the right to live in 200 areas in the Western states, without being harmed or removed. That was because they represented “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” And so how is it that the equines living in Tonto National Forest don’t qualify?

Still, for now at least, the horses are safe in their environment and can often be found grazing on the banks of the Salt River. Indeed, that’s just what they were doing one day when they noticed something unusual on the other side of the river.

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Just across the water emerged another group of horses, which included one particularly brave stallion named Champ. After a few moments, Champ and his family decided to cross the river and introduce themselves to the other group of Tonto horses.

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But, just at that very moment, disaster struck. The crossing group were struck by a powerful current which swept a young female horse, known as a filly, clean off her feet. As she began to get dragged downstream, her head was pulled beneath the water and it seemed likely she would drown.

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Somehow the little filly was swept directly into the middle of her group. That’s when the heroic Champ attempted to grab her by the neck, but unfortunately he couldn’t keep ahold of her in the torrent of the powerful water.

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Once again, the filly broke free from the group and began floating downstream away from them. Unwilling to give up on the scared youngster, brave Champ put his own safety aside and began to follow her down the river.

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Somehow, despite the current and the frantic motions of the panicked filly, Champ managed to grab the back of the filly’s neck and stabilize her in the water. Gently holding her up, he helped the little horse back to shore – refusing to let go of her until he was certain she was out of danger.

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Trembling from her terrifying ordeal, the filly ran straight to the safety and comfort of her mom. With the disaster successfully averted, Champ again set out to cross the river and introduce himself to the other group of horses who were still on the opposite bank.

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When he reached the other side, Champ calmly greeted the new arrivals like he’d known them forever. After sussing out his neighbors, the stallion then returned to his family and received a well-deserved hero’s welcome.

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Amazingly, an eye-witness named Becky Standridge captured the entire episode on camera and later posted it on YouTube for all to enjoy. “A wild stallion named Champ saves a young filly from drowning,” she titled the video.

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The end of the montage shows Champ back with his herd and joined by a couple of other critters. “Like a scripted ending to a fairytale story, three birds land on Champ and his mare,” read some subtitles to the shot.

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The amazing video, which was shared online in 2012, quickly went viral. To this date, the footage has been viewed over 3 million times and has received almost 100 comments from viewers who’ve marveled over Champ’s incredible intelligence and loyalty.

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Then, in 2015, the video received new poignancy when it was revealed that the U.S. Forest Department was considering removing Champ and his family from the national forest and sending about 100 of the stray horses to auction. Those that could not be auctioned would be “otherwise disposed of,” the department ominously stated.

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And because by law the Tonto horses aren’t protected, this is a very real possibility. “It just boils down to a safety concern for the Forest Service,” explained Tonto spokesperson Chandler Mundy. “We have horses out there on Forest Service land and we have no authority to manage horses and this is how they’re proceeding to remedy the safety issue.”

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Unsurprisingly, the plan sparked outrage among the local community in Arizona and even further afield. Many petitions were made to prevent the wild horses from being rounded up, and as of October 2016 there was still no official start date for the removal of Champ and his family.

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Indeed, in August 2015, a Tonto National Forest statement implied another option might be considered. “We appreciate the local community’s feedback and we’ve decided to take another look at the proposed gathering of stray horses on the Tonto National Forest.” However what approach will be taken still remains to be decided – leaving the horses’ future uncertain.

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Animal lovers from all over the world have voiced their concern over the act of moving these beautiful creatures from their home. “Some people think horses don’t have a soul. But the soul of a horse is much bigger than man knows,” wrote Standridge in her incredible rescue video.

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