GREELEY - As fast as the South Platte River rose in Weld County this past Friday, that is how fast a lot of people were racing, trying to save dozens of quarter horses that were at risk of drowning.
It turned out, it wasn't just the horses that needed saving.
Ask anyone about Tom and Leslie Lange.
"Anytime that there is a tragedy or a crisis, they're the first ones to step in," a friend and client Jason Wanderer said on Tuesday.
A photo from Friday shows Tom Lange wearing a flotation vest and bareback on a mare in the rushing flood waters, trying to save his horses with the help of people he doesn't even know, who jumped into the rising river with him.
"The current was terrible," Tom said. "It rose two and a half feet in 20 minutes. It was up almost to our chest."
He is now trying to find out the names of the people who helped him.
"They were there helping, everybody was," he said. "We couldn't get the horses to go down the road. We couldn't get them to go by just us walking."
In all, they moved 51 horses out of the flood waters. More than two dozen of the horses are owned by people across the country. The Langes board them and train them for shows.
"They put their trust in us to take care of their horses," Tom said. "I love these animals. They're not just horses, they're our family."
Seventeen more horses were away that day. They were in Denver, out of danger, at a horse show.
"You have friends everywhere," Leslie said, "you just maybe haven't met them or shook their hand, yet."
Leslie said she will always be grateful to all the people who helped rescue the horses, and she is relieved that all the horses are safe. But everything else is a near total loss.
The home and the business they've worked 25 years building in Weld County are all but destroyed. So now the community is jumping in again.
"I think people know what they would do for others, and hence are doing it for them," Wanderer said. "They risked their lives to save the animals. Their first priority was the animals there. People realize they are true horsemen."
Wanderer set up a fundraising webpage, and in just over a day, people had given more than $26,000 to help the Langes rebuild.
They are already starting over.
"When people in the agricultural industry or the horse business get in trouble," Leslie said, "there will be somebody there to help you. It's a big family."
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