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Copyright 2012 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Horses and Donkeys Survive Colorado  

Fire Storm

By Dorinda Troutman, RMR Staff Writer

 

July 2012 issue

 

      Ellie, a five-year-old mammoth donkey, kept her small herd of six equines calm and safe when a fire storm swept over their 35-acre green grass pasture. Her leadership and bravery probably prevented the animals from panicking and running into the flames to their death.

     The High Park Fire, west of Fort Collins , Colorado was reported at 5:45 a.m. on Saturday, June 9, 2012, and by the next day had burned over 5,000 acres, including six structures. Residents in the fire’s path were evacuated the afternoon the fire was reported.

     No one was there to see what happened, as all the residents had been hurriedly evacuated, but Sharon Guli, owner of the pasture where the four draft horses and two donkeys were boarded, says the pasture after the fire showed that all of the tall, green grass had tops scorched off, while the shorter grass was untouched.

 

     “The horses all had singed butts and tails,” says Guli, as if they had turned tail to the fire, but the donkeys had scorched facial hair and whiskers, as if they had faced it. That pasture is the only area of green — with all black surrounding it.”

     As soon as they were asked to evacuate, the Guli’s called Mike Van Hare, owner of the boarded equines. But by the time Van Hare tried to drive up with his trailer the road was blocked.

     Sharon and her husband Mike Guli lost their home and most outbuildings, but they were able to load their van with the makings of their livelihood before evacuating — Western and Victorian Historical Clothing. Their guest bunkhouse is still standing, so they have a place to live.

     Sharon Guli says that the horse’s and donkey’s owners, Mike and Michelle Van Hare, use the animals to draw wagons during events and so they are all calm and friendly to children.

     The Gulis called the Van Hares on Tuesday to tell them that their horses and donkeys had survived and had been evacuated to The Ranch Events Center ( County Fairgrounds ) in Loveland , Colorado , where they were being cared for by veterinarians and students from Colorado State University Teaching Hospital.

 

Colorado State University veterinary students Darcy Moreland and Oneal Peters treat Ellie, a donkey credited with leading her companions to safety and eventually evacuated from the High Park Fire. (Courtesy: William A. Cotton)

 

     CSU had joined in the efforts to help fire victims through the friendship of Gina Gonzales, a firefighter with Loveland Fire and Rescue, and co-president of the Larimer County Technical Emergency Animal Rescue Team and Kim Ellis, head equine nurse at CSU.

     “We both felt we needed to get veterinary support out there as the horses were coming in,” Ellis says.

     As of a June 13 press release from CSU, vets and students had examined about 150 horses, 150 alpacas and llamas, donkeys, sheep, goats and calves.

     One of those treated was Ellie, the Van Hares’ donkey.

     Kim Ellis related a story about Ellie in the CSU press release:

     “Two companion donkeys came in, and after talking to a neighbor who knows them, he is convinced the one dominant donkey (Ellie) kept the group of two donkeys and four draft horses safe.”

     Ellis said one of the volunteer haulers who brought this group in told her that the herd was standing in a lush green meadow and, when they arrived, Ellie, with singed whiskers, walked up to him and laid her head into his chest.

     Dr. Brian Miller, leading the CSU effort, says that he expects new animals to arrive that will need more attention.

     “There’s a large number that did not have time to get out. There are still plenty of animals up there that have been without water for several days.”

     CSU is not charging owners for caring for their evacuated animals. CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital Equine Services accepts donations for the program at https://advancing.colorado state.edu/cvmbs*53943.

 

As RMR was going to press, the High Park Fire was 65,750 acres, 55% contained, and 189 homes had been lost.

 

Copyright 2012 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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