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Horse tale offers lessons

A scared and dangerous animal.

Police officers out of their element.

Put these two circumstances together, and we all know too well what can happen.



But this time, the animal is safe and sound, due to the quick and calm thinking of two Garfield County sheriff’s deputies, and other people who assisted them.

As questions continue to be asked about the shooting of a stray dog by New Castle police, who said it had become vicious, a weekend incident near Rifle shows how a measured approach to a call involving a dangerous animal can have a more positive outcome.



When Realtor Debbie Sanderson found a horse with its leg caught in a cattle guard on the JQS Trail near Rifle, she called emergency dispatchers, triggering a team effort that saved the animal’s life and prevented injury to others.

Neighbors Greg and Teresa Wright came by with grain and a halter for the horse. Sheriff’s deputies Eric Brors and Donivan Livingston arrived, and soon summoned brand inspector Mike Walck. Horse shoer Gary Hosa, who had been working with Walck’s horses, also came along to help.

At a time when local veterinarians are criticized for being inadequately available for emergencies during nonbusiness hours, Dr. Elizabeth Chandler also responded after being called by a sheriff dispatcher.

She credits officers for getting knowledgeable people to the scene. Because everyone acted in a calm and reasonable manner, the horse was saved.

This particular horse already was difficult to handle because it hasn’t been broken. It had pulled up a section of the cattle guard with a leg, creating the danger of the leg whipping around the loose piece of metal.

Having once seen another horse have to be put down when it got caught in a cattle guard, Brors was anxious to save this horse from that fate. With that mindset, he thought of the Jaws of Life used by firefighters to cut through metal and extract accident victims from wrecked cars. He summoned Rifle firefighters, and after Chandler tranquilized the horse, they used the tool to free it.

It would be naive to suggest that every such instance can have such a happy ending. But there remains much to be learned from this latest incident. Officers can benefit from obtaining expert assistance on an animal call when they are in over their heads. Innovative approaches can be taken that can produce an outcome other than having to shoot an animal.

Let’s hope all local cops, but especially those in New Castle, are paying attention.


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