The rodeo community has come together to support barrel racer Cassidy Cassel, who lost two of her horses in a trailer fire in Conrad on the way home from the Augusta rodeo.
For Cassel, Diva and Dixie weren’t just horses - they were family. Dixie, the “fire-breathing dragon” full of love, and Diva, the Cheez-it loving goober, the horses were her heart and soul.
After spending hours upon hours working with both horses, Cassel developed a strong bond with both of them. “I knew those horses better than I know myself. I knew ins and outs, every bump on their body, every scratch, every freckle, every hair,” she said. “They were my best friends.”
The twenty-two-year-old barrel racer lost them both to a heartbreaking tragedy as her trailer caught fire while on her way home from the Augusta Rodeo.
After stopping for dinner with her dad on their way home, a stranger interrupted to let customers know they saw smoke coming from a trailer.
According to Cassidy, the wiring on the generator battery shorted out and caught fire.
By the time they had reached their trailer, there was nothing they could do. Devastated, they stood by and watched as everything they had worked for went up in flames.
“It’s not just a hobby for me. This is what I do every day, all day, 365,” said Cassel. Watching all her hard work disappear along with her horses was absolutely heartbreaking.
Having been around horses her entire life, Cassel was no stranger to the emotions that accompany the loss of one of their own. Still, nothing compares to losing your best friends.
Her trailer remained a total skeleton, nothing left intact except a few items that were stored in side compartments and her dad’s cowboy hat left sitting in a cupboard, Cassidy was left with a broken heart, scrambling to pick up the pieces.
“It’s been hard to not only know that I’ve lost my horses but to see everything I’ve worked for go up in flames as well,” said Cassel. Kendra Santos, friend of Cassidy, released a post on Facebook discussing what happened. Almost immediately, the community reached out in support of Cassel, who was completely blown away by the amount of love and encouragement she received.
Having received letters and words of encouragement from people all around the world, as well as a few donations, the kindness she has seen from the surrounding community makes the loss of her girls a little more bearable.
“All I wanted for those mares was for everyone to know their name. I just never wanted it to be in this way, it was going to be in the arena,” said Cassidy. “They were my heart and soul, and a piece of me died with them, and to see the community come together and support me in the way that they have… I’m just really grateful.”
While nothing can replace Diva and Dixie, Cassidy is not giving up and is hopeful she’ll be back on the arena next summer, honoring their memory as she competes.