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WALDO CANYON FIRE: Evacuated horses fill barns

By: LINDA NAVARRO
June 23, 2012
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photo - Ryer Hitchcock leads Leo into the barn. The pair was unable to go on the Range Ride this week. Photo by Photo by Linda Navarro
Ryer Hitchcock leads Leo into the barn. The pair was unable to go on the Range Ride this week. Photo by Photo by Linda Navarro 

It started slowly at 6 p.m. Saturday as volunteers put together procedures for horses being trailered in from the Waldo Canyon fire evacuation areas. There were just two horses in Barn 1 at Norris-Penrose Equestrian Center. In the sky to the northwest, white smoke billowed.

How quickly it changed around 6:45 p.m., as trailer after trailer pulled in, bringing five horses, two horses, six horses.  Over the next two hours it became something of a blur.

As quickly as trailers pulled in and were unloaded, coordinating volunteer Julie Baxter of El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Services and the volunteer workers snapped numbered bands around each horse’s neck while others took down the owners’ names  and phone numbers. Then Baxter took an identifying photo of each horse and owner. All the information was posted on that horse’s stall.

Trailers filled with horses from Academy Riding Stables in Garden of the Gods arrived, then Flying W Ranch’s horses, owners with their horses, and a Dreamcatchers Equine Rescue trailer cram-packed with huge draft horses and a mustang from Rockledge Ranch.

Serving as wrangler for the Rockledge horses was Andy Morris, accompanied by Matt Mayberry.

Paul and Julie Demuesy from the Equine Rescue had been up since 6 a.m. for their own fundraiser, but answered the call to transport evacuated horses.

Bob Norris, whose name is on the equestrian center, drove to the site just to check, because he was certain the volunteers and owners would need hay. Then, he had it delivered.

Ryer Hitchcock, who hadn’t been able to go on the Range Ride for the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo this week, brought in his two horses, including Leo, who he calls his “movie star.”

As the evening rolled along, more and more horses arrived, filling the stalls in Barns 1, 2 and 3.  It was unknown just how many would arrive.

Baxter, who has a boarding stable in Rush, explained to owners they would be responsible for cleaning up their horses’ stalls and they would need water buckets. Grateful owners, a number of whom said they would return several times during the night, had no problem with the rules.

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