When Colorado Horse Rescue was contacted last Saturday by Boulder County officials and ordered to evacuate its 60 horses, as the CalWood Fire burned nearby, nonprofit officials knew it was a feat they couldn’t accomplish alone.
Grace Degnan, a marketing assistant for Colorado Horse Rescue — about 3½ miles east of the foothills — said nonprofit officials had been keeping a close eye on the fire’s progress. About noon, they learned conditions were worsening.
“Normally, we are a place that can take in horses or livestock, if an area is evacuating,” Degnan said. “Animal control called us to let us know that the fire was not that situation, and it was growing rapidly. We needed to start evacuating and it was really serious. We could see the hill glowing, just a few miles away for us.”
The Longmont-area nonprofit, which shelters and cares for horses while trying to find them a permanent home through adoption services, doesn’t have enough trailers to transport 60 horses at once. According to Degnan, Colorado Horse Rescue has two trailers and is able to transport about nine horses at a time. They needed to get the horses to the Boulder County Fairgrounds, where evacuees could bring their livestock to be sheltered.
After putting out a few calls to people whom the nonprofit knows have horse trailers, word spread and dozens of people, showed up at the nonprofit at 10386 N. 65th St. to help bring them to safety. A handful of people, whom the nonprofit has worked with in adoptions, also offered their pastures and barns to provide a haven for about 15 horses. The rest were brought to the fairgrounds.
Degnan said it was “touching” to see the Boulder County community respond so quickly to help the animals. With the nonprofit’s resources alone, Degnan said it would have taken hours of back-and-forth trips to get the horses to safety.
“We had a line of horse trailers after probably an hour or so,” Degnan said. “We were really proud that all 60 horses got on a trailer. For horses, that’s part of their training, is learning to get on a trailer. I think there was a sense among the herd that there was an emergency going on.”
Safe at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, volunteers stepped up to make sure that horses were cared for and weren’t too stressed in the unfamiliar environment.
Colorado Horse Rescue volunteer Sara Porterfield, of Boulder, spent roughly eight hours Sunday and two hours Monday feeding, watering and mucking stalls at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. The horses appeared tired, but in high spirits, Porterfield said.
“They were doing pretty well. There were some squabbles over whose pile of hay was whose, but that’s to be expected,” Porterfield said. “A couple of them just wanted to stir up trouble and would be really calm and then run through the pasture, trying to get other horses riled up. But Sunday afternoon … I realized the energy level had dropped. All the horses look so tired. They had been through a lot.”
Fortunately, they didn’t have to be away from the rescue for long.
The nonprofit got word Sunday from county officials that it would be safe to bring the horses back to the rescue again and that the evacuation notice had been lifted. With the Lefthand Canyon Fire sparking that same day, Degnan said they wanted to free up space at the fairgrounds for additional evacuees to bring their animals. Colorado Horse Rescue, again with the help of people in the community with horse trailers, brought back about a third of the horses that day. The rest of the horses were brought back Monday. Horses sheltered at private homes were brought back to the rescue Tuesday.
After a harrowing couple of days, the horses are glad to be back in familiar pastures. The nonprofit shared photos of the animals after they had been returned to the rescue, adding in the post, “they’d be even happier if they were in a home of their own.”
Degnan said she was grateful for the way the people dropped what they were doing to help Saturday.
“We all had just tears in our eyes watching trailers pull up and these people pull up with halters and their trucks and trailers so willing to help,” she said. “It was incredibly touching and we can’t thank this community enough.”