Fraser business loses two horses to train
December 22, 2015
It was Saturday night, Dec. 19, when Glen Phillips got a call that any horse owner would dread.
The draft horses from Phillips's business, Dashing Thru the Snow, had gotten loose, and two had been involved in an incident with a passing train.
"Our main concern when we heard about it was did any person get hurt, because that's the most important thing," Phillips said.
No one was injured in the incident, but Phillips lost both horses.
Dashing Thru the Snow offers horse-drawn sleigh rides on a large piece of private property north of Fraser, just off County Road 5.
Sometime on Saturday evening, the horses forced their way out of a corral on the property.
"We don't know whether something spooked them or what, but you know, from time to time there's moose on the property, coyotes," Phillips said. "We've even seen mountain lion tracks before, and with everything that happened and with fresh snow coming in, I can't really say what caused them to get out."
The horses made their way to nearby U.S. Highway 40.
Phillips reckons the passing traffic kept them on the west side of the highway where a Union Pacific Railroad track runs parallel to it.
Though he wouldn't have expected them to get close to the train, Phillips said a spooked horse has only one goal – to run.
"The old saying is fight or flight and typically they take the latter," Phillips said. "They get spooked, they run, and that train makes a lot of noise. It's got an extremely bright light on the front, and I would just say they got disoriented and scared and didn't know which way to run."
The train struck Wesson, a 15-year-old Percheron/Belgian cross, and Emmit, a 4-year-old Paint/Draft cross.
One was killed instantly. The other was gravely wounded and put down at the owner's request, said Lieutenant Dan Mayer with the Grand County Sheriff's Office.
Mayer was surprised by the incident.
"The night that it was happening I didn't think much of it, but the next morning I was thinking, 'this is weird,'" Mayer said. Horses don't normally do this. They get out, but they don't typically run in front of a train."
Officers from the Winter Park-Fraser Police Department, Granby Police Department, the sheriff's office and Colorado State Patrol as well as numerous passersby helped corral the remaining horses.
"They did a hell of a job getting all the rest of them corralled and out of there so they didn't get run over as well," Mayer said.
Union Pacific sent a hi-rail truck and a crew to help load the horses onto a trailer for burial.
Since the incident, Phillips has paired Wesson's partner Smith and Emmit's partner Dandy.
A friend in Utah loaned Phillips another team, which arrived in Fraser on Monday night.
It's Dashing Thru the Snow's busiest time of the year.
The business usually makes around 50 percent of its yearly revenue in the two and a half weeks around Christmas, Phillips said.
Luckily, with the extra team, "everything is going to go right as planned," Phillips said. "I think we're going to be able to move right along, and that's what we want everyone to know – that we're still operating."
In the meantime, Phillips will start looking for replacements.
A lot of factors including size, color and most importantly work compatibility go into pairing draft horses.
Though Emmit and Smith will ultimately be replaced, the two horses won't be soon forgotten.
"They were your typical draft personalities," Phillips said. "Just gentle giants."
Phillips asked that anyone who wants to support the business schedule a sleigh ride, especially during January, which is a slow time of year.
For more information, visit dashingthruthesnow.com or call 970-389-2997.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.
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