Excavator operator rescues draft horse mired in mudslide at Aspen Lodge in Estes Park

ESTES PARK, Colo. - It's an amazing, but little known September storm rescue story.

A draft horse mired in a mudslide at an Estes Park resort was rescued by an excavator operator who "very gently" used a big metal bucket to scoop up the mud and the horse and move it to solid ground.

The rescue happened on Sunday, Sept. 15, after torrential rains that unleashed flooding caused a massive mudslide that engulfed parts of the horse stables and parking lot at Aspen Lodge Resort & Spa on Highway 7, employee Kristina Naldjian told 7NEWS. Some parked cars were buried in a several feet of mud.

There were 25 horses in the stable area and all were unharmed, except for Rosie, a draft horse who became mired in several feet of watery mud.

Employees tried unsuccessfully to help free the exhausted horse, which was buried up to its hips in mud, Naldjian said.  

"Rosie was basically giving up, she was a goner," Naldjian said. "The mud was very deep and she totally was sucked into it."

Fortunately, an excavator operator was working on the lodge grounds, removing debris clogging Beaver Lake, to prevent the lake dam from failing and flooding the area, Naldjian said.

The heavy equipment operator, Dan Crane, extended the excavator boom and used the steel bucket to scoop up the mud under the horse, lifting Rosie with it, Naldjian said.

"He very gently reached over with the crane and pulled (the horse) up with the mud," Naldjian said.

Photos show the draft horse when it was stuck in the mud and then walking following the rescue.

After the mudslide, 25 employees and six guests had to sleep in the lodge's restaurant until they could be evacuated, Naldjian said. The 25 horses were evacuated to an area ranch and later moved down to the Fort Collins area, she said.

The lodge will be closed for several months because the mudslide damaged its water infrastructure and water treatment plant.