Online Extra

Colorado Wildfires

June 27, 2012

PRCA, Air Force Academy Equestrian Center have been affected by the Colorado Springs wildfire.

American Quarter Horse

As the Waldo Canyon Fire encroaches on Colorado Springs, forcing evacuation of more than 32,000 people and destroying an unknown number of homes, it’s also having an effect on the horse world. (Journal photo)

By Holly Clanahan for America’s Horse

As the Waldo Canyon Fire encroaches on Colorado Springs, forcing evacuation of more than 32,000 people and destroying an unknown number of homes, it’s also having an effect on the horse world.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association headquarters in Colorado Springs was evacuated, shutting down the ProCom central entry system that allows rodeo contestants to call in 24 hours a day to enter rodeos and get their roughstock draws and other important information.

PRCA director of communications Kendra Santos said that all entry deadlines have been bumped back a day. Rodeos that were set to close Wednesday will now close on Thursday.

“They’re working on it feverishly,” Kendra said of the ProCom system. “I sure don’t remember this happening before, where a fire shut down the rodeo business.”

Thankfully, entries had already closed for the busy Fourth of July weekend, when many rodeo cowboys and cowgirls go all out to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, so those won’t be affected by the shut-down.

Updates, as they become available, will be on www.prorodeo.com.

PRCA’s ProRodeo Sports News was set to go to the printer today, and Kendra says it was about an hour away from being ready, but employees can’t get to the office.

Still, “the main thing is, everybody’s safe,” Kendra said. “Hopefully, we can get back in tomorrow.”

And as the fire rages – doubling in size overnight Tuesday to more than 24 square miles, according to the Associated Press – Kendra knows there are more important things than a magazine deadline.

The ProRodeo Hall of Fame, with its irreplaceable artifacts, is not in jeopardy, and “I’m saying a lot of prayers for the firefighters and the people that have lost their homes,” Kendra said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force Academy – including the more than 150 horses at its equestrian center – has been evacuated.

America’s Horse magazine is one of the best parts of being an AQHA or AQHYA member! Join today to start receiving this award-winning publication.

The Associated Press offers this description: “With flames cresting a ridge high above its scenic, 28-square-mile campus, the Air Force Academy told more than 2,100 residents to evacuate 600 households.

“A curtain of flame and smoke hung above the academy’s Falcon Stadium; billowing gray clouds formed a backdrop to its aluminum, glass and steel Cadet Chapel, an icon of the academy. Elsewhere, police officers directing traffic and fleeing residents covered their faces with T-shirts and bandanas to breathe through the smoke.”

Even with that frightening backdrop, equestrian center manager Billy Jack Barrett said, “We’re setting really good. The fire is just south of the Air Force Academy.”

In an effort to stay ahead of the flames and smoke, Air Force officials evacuated the horses on Sunday, before there was an order.

“We evacuated over 150 horses in two hours,” Billy Jack said. He asked for help from the Pikes Peak Range Riders, who had just come in from a five-day trail ride and still had trailers hooked up. Those volunteers came to get horses, and they were assisted by Air Force cadets, rodeo team members and even some wounded warriors who interact with horses through the center’s Warrior Wellness program (featured in the October 2011 America’s Horse.) Oh, and a four-star general.

The government-owned horses used for rental riding and the Warrior Wellness program were moved to the Army’s Fort Carson, and the privately owned horses boarded at the equestrian center were taken to a stable six miles away that had plenty of room.

“We went back yesterday and moved a semi-load of hay to each place,” Billy Jack said. “Nobody was hurt, and we got out of there ahead of the deal,” which allowed the horses to calmly settle in to their new locales.

America’s Horse is filled with informative articles that help you make the most of your experience with horses, whether it’s keeping them healthy, correcting behavior problems or having fun on the trail.

Still, it’s not an easy thing to watch, as “that whole northwest corner of Colorado Springs is pretty well burned,” Billy Jack said. His own home is safe, but he worries about many of his friends. “I can sit on the front porch and see the whole front range lit up on fire.”

Has the Colorado Springs wildfire (or one of the others that has erupted in 2012) affected you and your horses? Share your story in the comments below. We’d especially love to hear any advice you might have for others who may be faced with an evacuation situation.

More information that may help: