Stable owner saddles up first responders to evacuate horses

WASHOE VALLEY, NV (KOLO) Crossties, saddles, and halters are all pretty common at a stable.

Those who work and play around Maplewood Stables can probably tell you why they are all used.

But for those not around horses, the large animals and the gear they use may seem intimidating.

“Most of them are afraid of horses because they are big,” says Julie Winkel, owner of Maplewood Stables. “And they think they are mean and they are going to run over them. And that is the farthest thing from the truth,” she says.

Imagine trying to evacuate a 1,200 pound beast in times of emergency.

It first happened to Winkel seven years ago during a fire.

“We had a fire evacuation plan. It was amazing that we could move 50 head of horses in an hour, hour and a half. After that someone said to me, our first responders need help. They need to be educated in horse handling. And I raised my hand and said I am all for it,” says Winkel.

The classes started in November 2016 and occur two times a year.

In that time, Winkel has helped educate more than 200 first responders and others on how to help capture, halter, lead and load a horse during times of fire.

“Horse behavior, how horses act in nature. Catching a horse in a stall. Catching a horse in a corral or pasture. Leading the horse around, controlling the horse safely. And basically being comfortable with it,” she says of the class structure.

Winkel says many of the participants have taken her class more than once.

She says she's received alerts over the last couple of years during fires showing emergency response teams are prepared to evacuate horses to a safe designated area.

She says it makes her feel good that her students feel comfortable and the horses have a fighting chance of getting out from a fire alive.

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