By Robyn Moore
Driving up to the small barn in Airdrie, AB, a small sorrel mare in her twenties is the first to say hello with a nicker or two. She walks up to the fence, hoping to receive a carrot.
It seems that every barn has a “Walmart greeter” so nothing seems out of the ordinary. Until this mare turns around, revealing bare skin and burn marks that run all up her hind legs.
This is Misty. And her life almost ended on September 14, 2012, in what many RCMP officers recalled as one of the most horrific scenes they had ever seen. A head on collision between a truck and horse trailer and another truck pulling a utility trailer killed three people and one horse. One of those people was Misty’s owner, Mike Kudras.
Mike proudly served the Calgary Fire Department for 37 years before he retired as Captain in 2005. Once retired, he renewed his passion for horses.
“His love of horses went beyond your standard pleasure trail ride,” says Kerri de Sa, Mike’s daughter. “He was involved in penning, gymkhanas, and barrel racing communities.”
Around 6 p.m. on that fateful day near Three Hills, AB, Mike tragically lost his life and Misty rose from the ashes, earning her the nickname “Phoenix.”
The fire from the vehicles was incredibly hot and rose high into the air. Ron Carlson was one of the first on the scene and he used a hammer to pry the trailer doors open. He got the doors open, but Misty was trapped in the twisted metal. He pried the door off of her, and she launched herself out of the burning trailer, right over his head.
“If not for the quick thinking of the Carlson/Jorgensen family, all would be lost,” says Kerri. “When speaking with him I thanked him profusely but there are no words to express our gratitude. He simply said, ‘I just did what anyone would have done.’”
Kathleen Parker from Valley Veterinary Clinic in Three Hills arrived on the scene and met a frightened horse with burns, lung damage from the smoke, and a 10 inch gash on her hind end. But the even bigger obstacle was how to load this horse, who would not go near another trailer. Kathy’s husband, Glen, drove to their farm and got a stock trailer and their older mare named Tammi. Tammi was the one that convinced Misty to load in the new trailer.
“In my darkest hour, the only thing that kept me going is knowing that one of my Dad’s babies survived,” says Kerri.
For the next two weeks, Moore Equine Veterinary Centre treated Misty, although they didn’t know the horse’s name or owner. So, “Phoenix” was ‘to be treated like Secretariat’ as instructed by Dr. Andrews. After she was stabilized, she was moved to Bar None Ranches and was treated using their Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Chamber, which is the only of its kind in Canada.
Although she will always bear scars from that terrifying day, Misty is a happy horse and the “Walmart greeter” of the barn. She will always have some lung damage, but with the vet’s permission, Kerri hopes to lightly ride her again one day.
“I am sure my father is smiling down knowing the best possible care and love for Misty is being given,” says Kerri.