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      Horse hero honored for spending last dime to free animal from canal

      Pictures of that dramatic Monday morning rescue show the frantic efforts to save a horse.

      "I knew the horse would drown if we didn't have it taken out," Alfredo Marez said.

      The passerby, who's simply on the way to his ranch outside San Benito at the time, wouldn't let the animal die.

      He first tries his truck as a means to get the horse out of the canal.

      "I have a winch on my truck but unfortunately I didn't have the elevation to pull her out," he recalled. "All the winch was doing was pulling her into the bank. I panicked."

      Alfredo contacts county authorities for help.

      They get him in touch with cowboys who can better assist.

      "They said they charge a $100 and that kind of worried me because that's gonna really hurt me cause that's basically all I had," he said.

      The decision for him is still an easy one.

      After the rescuers arrive, the horse is eventually pulled to safety.

      Alfredo says it's just in the nick of time.

      "I was sweating bullets because I kept thinking she's gonna drown, she's gonna drown... hyperthermia," he recalled.

      The horse's owner opts to give up Betsey as she's known to Alfredo because he could no longer care for her.

      Alfredo sees it as a blessing.

      Well, he sees it more like a sign.

      There's a number 7 that's branded on the horse.

      Alfredo is a single father of 6.

      He now sees Betsey as one of his own.

      She's lucky number 7.

      "We're going to love her," he said with a smile. "We can't wait to put a saddle on her and take her out on a little trail ride."

      Alfredo doesn't think of himself as a hero, but people in the community disagree.

      "We do what we have to do," Alfredo said. "You see something and you can't let it die."

      Karen Gonzalez with FNB Insurance Agency surprises Alfredo with the news that he's this week's $400 Pay it 4Ward recipient.

      She reads emails from people who nominated him after his story first aired Monday night on Action 4 News at 10.

      "Emails like this one, 'It is rare that you find people who do acts of kindness towards humans let alone animals,'" Karen read. "Somebody else writes, 'it is truly a selfless and compassionate act that should serve as an example for others to follow.' On behalf of FNB Insurance and Action 4 News, we couldn't be happier to Pay it 4Ward to you with $400."

      "Wow!" Alfredo said with a smile. I'm a little touched. I recommend everyone does what I did cause it pays off. It pays off! I sure do appreciate it and I'm sure she's [Betsey] going to appreciate it too. She's going to be eating like a rock star!"

      Alfredo plans to use his Pay it 4Ward prize to buy hay, feed and a new stable for the 7th member of his family.

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