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The CO. Flood Aftermath: Ten Days Later and the Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Rebuilding Process Has Just Begun

Filed under: Breaking News,Featured |     
Bear' has been really, really strong through this entire situation and is keeping her sense of humor." All images courtesy of Caryn Hill Photography.

Bear’ has been really, really strong through this entire situation and is keeping her sense of humor.” All images courtesy of Caryn Hill Photography.


By: Brittany Bevis

Today marks the tenth day since the landmark Colorado flood of 2013 when the Big Thompson, South Platte, and St. Vrain rivers rose up and overtook homes, small businesses, and entire towns wreaking havoc across a large section of the Southwest. One of the most compelling stories to come out of this natural disaster is that of AQHA horse trainers Tom and Leslie Lange of Greeley, CO., who managed to rescue over 40 animals from their property with the help of assistant trainer Jeff Burley, Nick Suft, Sarah Puerner, and Kelly O’Connell.

The old saying “when it rains, it pours” certainly seems to apply in this situation that has been proving to be increasingly more difficult as flood recovery continues more than a week later. Not long after the flood, the Lange crew was dealt another devastating blow with the death of Invest In A Hot Star, the 1999 chestnut AQHA stallion by Blazing Hot and out of Sheza Big Spender. Then, the day after Jeff Burley’s birthday, his promising Hot Ones Only colt, fondly nicknamed “Sebastian,” succumb to injuries sustained during the flood.

As this courageous group continues to be tested, a bright spot in all of the darkness is the outpouring of support, financial assistance, and camaraderie of the horse industry that has banded together to help with recovery efforts. Seven days ago, Lange’s close friend and client Jason Wanderer set up the official T&L Quarter Horses Flood Relief Fund on FundRazr.com. A whopping $39,075 has been raised so far.

Jason Wanderer shows how high the water line extended in Jeff Burley’s garage during the flood.

Jason Wanderer shows how high the water line extended in Jeff Burley’s garage during the flood.

Over the weekend, friends, family, clients, and neighbors gathered at the Lange farm to help lend a hand with the extensive clean-up process. One of those in attendance was former client Caryn Hill who took it upon herself to document the damage from her unique perspective as an equine and severe weather photographer.

“I actually rode with Tom and Leslie and took some lessons from them three or four years ago,” Hill says. “Once I got to Congress and made the finals in western pleasure, I fulfilled my bucket list. I sold my horse and got back into photography. I wanted to stay in touch with the horse industry by combining my love of horses with doing backdrop shots and making up ads.”

“We also own a storm chasing tour company. My husband is a meteorologist. We take people out to shoot the tornados and the monsoons in Arizona, so we are well-versed in severe weather photography.”

For this experienced photojournalist, who’s witnessed 197 tornados in her lifetime, nothing could prepare her for the feeling she would get when shooting at the site of a natural disaster on a homestead belonging to a close friend.

“It does hit home with you at that point,” she says. “I’ve seen the devastation that tornados and floods have done and you think, ‘oh those poor people.’ But when it happens to somebody you know and you’ve actually been there on the property for lessons, it’s very humbling. It makes you count your blessings every day that you still have all of your possessions and your loved ones.”


“I’ve seen 197 tornados, but taking the drive up to their place that day I was as nervous as heck for some reason. It was because I knew what I’d probably end up finding and it would hit me personally. I don’t wish this upon anyone.”

Although Hill’s photography offers a detailed account of the devastation, she says nothing compares to being on location to fully experience the magnitude of the damage in person.

“[Photos aren’t] like being there,” she says. “It’s like being a storm chaser. I can tell you about it and show you our videos, but unless you’re there in that moment you don’t get the entire gist of the situation. It’s the same at Leslie’s place.”


“It’s hard for people to comprehend the magnitude of this happening. The human brain and mind will just shut down when something like this happens. ‘Bear’ has been really, really strong through this entire situation and is keeping her sense of humor. We saw that old For Sale sign, and I told her to go over and hold it in the water. She was willing to do that! I didn’t know if she would like [photos] like that or the boot picture, but then I thought I’ve got to document everything. Just the boot alone is a human element. It’s not just a shot of horse blankets on the line or a muddy arena.”

Throughout this entire process, Hill has been amazed by the outpouring of support from the horse community.

“It’s been amazing to be able to witness the camaraderie and team effort,” she says. “Jason Wanderer has really been a hub of a lot of the stuff that has been happening.”

A big thank you goes to Caryn Hill Photography for providing us with her severe weather images of the Colorado flood. Scroll below to view additional photos.

Caryn Hill Photography and Caryn Hill Equine Photography

Southwest Photography Tours

Silver Lining Severe Weather Photography Tours

Click on the links below to read more about the CO. flood and to learn how to donate to recovery efforts.

Extreme Flooding Causes Devastation in Colorado, Many Areas Still Being Evacuated 

Official T&L Quarter Horses Flood Relief Fund Page Now Live Online

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