An equine organization said it is getting an outpouring of support for a severely injured thoroughbred a Mesa family discovered abandoned near its residence.
Meanwhile, a veterinarian at East Valley Equine in Mesa performed surgery Monday on the horse's fractured skull, which contained an infection. The veterinarian said the horse is expected to recover, according to Lt. Brian Lee, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the incident.
On March 1, Dan Price of Mesa discovered the 6-year-old horse near his home and stables on Center Street in the small farming community of Lehi, north of McKellips Road, according to Price's granddaughter, Amaris Saldate, who briefly kept the horse.
Saldate said Monday that the brown and white horse she named Solo Vino (Spanish for "came alone") was first noticed walking through a field close to the Salt River, where people often drop off animals such as dogs and cats. The area where the horse was found also borders the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
"My grandfather had gone up to feed the horses in the morning, and noticed him in the field," Saldate said. "He just appeared. He was so thin you could grab his ribs."
The horse also had apparently been beaten over the head with a board, and had a 3-inch infected gash in its head with part of its bone exposed, according to Gwen Cleary, who also lives in the Lehi farming community and is temporarily caring for the horse.
Cleary said Tuesday that the veterinarian who performed the surgery said fragments of the horse's skull inside the wound were removed, and that the horse is on antibiotics.
However, Lee said the veterinarian reported that human neglect or abuse on the animal could not be proven.
"We're not saying that there wasn't human neglect or abuse, there's just no proof that it is," Lee said. "The horse could have jumped up and hit its head on a trailer, or hit it on a fence. We don't know how long the horse could have been out there."
Saldate went on to say that she and others saw the horse at a livestock auction at Kyrene Road and the Loop 202 the day before it was discovered walking into the field near her grandfather's house, but the owner, whose name she said she did not know, did not sell it and took it back.
Cleary said she called authorities last week - including the Mesa Police Department and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office - but no one returned their calls. Now that the story has hit the media, they're getting attention, she said.
"The horse needed to get into a vet immediately," Cleary said. "He could barely walk."
Lee said the sheriff office's animal cruelty investigations unit receives 5,000 animal abuse calls a year and began investigating the incident involving the horse as soon as it could, which was on Monday. If it is determined that some sort of crime was committed against the horse, that person could be charged with animal cruelty, Lee said.
The Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary in Green Valley near Tucson hopes to care for the horse when it is able to travel, said Karen Pomroy, president of the organization.
"This is a clear case of animal abuse," Pomroy said. "There has been a huge outcry of support. We've had so many calls and people donating to help."
Pomroy said the horse likely had been run on a track at some point in its life.
If anyone has any information about the abandoned horse, they can call the Maricopa County Sheriff Office’s Animal Cruelty Hotline at (602) 876-1681.