Lightning likely killed three horses Monday in a field behind Yampa Valley Medical Center, a Steamboat Springs veterinarian said.
Mike Gotchey investigated the deaths Tuesday and said the horses looked healthy and well fed and had no marks of a struggle, signs that lightning could be the cause of their sudden death.
Gotchey found two of the horses five feet from each other and a second horse about 100 feet away. A fourth horse survived the storm and appeared to be unharmed, Gotchey said.
The horses were all quarter horses and all mares. Lynn Powell owned two and his mother, Beverly More, owned the third.
They were kept on the More Property above Central Park Plaza along Pine Grove Road. It is the site of the famous More Barn featured in many Steamboat Ski Area photographs.
Gotchey said the horses had access to plenty of food and water and no poisonous plants were found on the property.
Two of the three horses did not have any kind of markings, but one had a line of hair burned off in a spiral pattern up the horse's the leg, which Gotchey said was a sign of a lightning strike. There also were no signs of bruises, bleeding or mistreatment.
Gotchey believes lightning did not directly strike the horses, but hit the ground 10 to 15 feet away and the electrical current caused their hearts to stop.
Powell said the hill where the horses grazed has frequent lightning strikes.
"I grew up there, and lightning used to hit there all the time," he said.
It is rare for horses to be killed by lightning in Routt County, Gotchey said, but was a common occurrence when he worked as a veterinarian in Florida.
City Animal Control Officer Sanne Pollak said a call was made to the dispatch center late Monday afternoon from an anonymous caller asking for a welfare check on the horses. Powell said the horses looked healthy about 11 a.m. Monday. Another call came about 6 p.m. Monday. The horses were found about 8 p.m.
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