We’re going through a pandemic, many of us haven’t seen our families in almost a year, and all the fun activities we used to do (horse related or not) have been rescheduled, canceled, or set aside for the time being.
But 2020 also made me realize how lucky I am to be part of such a caring community that’s able to come together in times of need to help each other out. During the beginning of the year and the start of COVID-19, I read about people donating hay to fellow horse owners who were affected by the virus. Later in the year those same people came together to assist equine facilities that were affected by the wildfires that blazed through the West. Regardless of what the problem was, the horse community was always there, ready to help.
[RELATED: WILDFIRE ADVICE]
One of the scariest moments of my horse-related life came in October when I got the phone call that a new wildfire had started and was headed right in the direction of the barn I used to ride at. Within minutes, I was in my car calling anyone and everyone I knew in the area who might have a trailer or a place to keep 48 horses.
I’ve been through a lot with horses: colic surgery, tornadoes, blizzards in the middle-of-nowhere Texas that resulted in highway shutdowns. But being from Illinois, wildfires were something I never really experienced.
Seeing the smoke and flames near the barn was a terrifying—almost helpless—feeling. But something comforting happened as I was rushing into a pasture to catch mares and babies. I looked up to the road and saw a truck and trailer driving toward the fire. It didn’t stop there. Throughout our personal evacuation I saw trailer after trailer driving in the direction of trouble and felt myself overcome with emotion. As others fled the area to escape to safety, horse owners in our little Colorado community were hooking up their trailers to drive to barns and properties that were in the direct path of danger.
[RELATED: NATURAL DISASTER PLAN]
Our Horse&Rider team stepped up during all of this, too, and I’m forever grateful for them. Assistant Editor Michaela Jaycox—who was evacuating her own horses during this emergency—completed multiple trips with her truck and trailer to help move others’ horses to safety. And our Western editorial director, Chelsea Shaffer, didn’t even bat an eye when I called her asking if she’d have room for 48 head. Within minutes of my phone call, she had already completely reorganized her barn and pastures to accommodate all of the horses that were heading her way. In the end, the barn I used to ride at was lucky enough to be spared, but others in the area weren’t as lucky.
C Lazy U, a popular guest ranch in Granby, Colorado (one I’ve enjoyed staying at myself), was directly impacted by the East Troublesome fire, which made its way through the historic property, destroying several ranch buildings along with the iconic C Lazy U barn that was originally built in 1922. While the fire missed a majority of their buildings, that barn was a trademark part of the ranch and will be missed by all who visit. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. The ranch also ran into some bad luck when the original evacuation spot for their nearly 200 horses became a mandatory evacuation zone itself.
Within an hour of asking for assistance evacuating their horses for a second time, more than 50 trucks and trailers lined up along the road waiting for their chance to help. They eventually made their way to Jim Goff’s facility. Goff, a friend of H&R’s (you might even recognize him on a previous cover of the magazine), said it was an easy choice when the head wrangler called him asking if they could bring their horses to his property. He told me that he answered the call when someone was in a desperate situation and knew he could rely on his friends to rally together and help him take care of the additional horses.
The evacuations are something I’ll never forget. But having our community come together when we needed it the most is what makes me proud to be part of this industry, and it truly inspires me to continue answering the call when fellow horse owners are in times of need.