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Two horses have died during the Centennial Wagon Train trek through the state but not because of the hot weather or the long days spent on the trail since June 4, organizers say.

The 556-mile-long trip, scheduled to end June 28 in Cedar City, marks Utah's 100th year of statehood. Some 300 horses, supplied by participants, are pulling wagons or carrying riders seven or more hours a day, often as far as 20 miles.The first horse died after reaching Tremonton, the first stop on the wagon train trip, according to Utah Statehood Centennial Commission spokeswoman Claudia Nakano.

The horse may have been sick before it joined the wagon train and was diagnosed with colic, Nakano said. "It did not die from heat or exhaustion or anything related to the wagon train."

The second horse's death occurred Tuesday night in Gunnison, after the animal impaled itself, Nakano said. The horse, tethered to a fence post, was apparently spooked by the wind and broke the post off while attempting to flee.

The horse probably should have been tied to a sturdier post, Nakano said. Cody Faerber, a Colorado State veterinary student who's traveling with the wagon train, agreed.

In an interview from the wagon train's stop Friday night near Holden, Faerber said he and his father, Dave, spent nearly two months preparing their six horses for the strenuous task of pulling a wagon.

What they weren't ready for was the unusually high temperatures the wagon train encountered along much of the route. "That was probably the one factor nobody could plan on," Faerber said.

He described the two horse deaths as helping everyone in camp "realize this was more than just a day ride, something you just join and have fun. This was serious and there was a possibility of an animal going down."

The first death in particular made the participants aware of the need to make sure their animals were well taken care of and weren't suffering from heat exhaustion, he said.

Faerber said he's pleased at the overall condition of the horses on the trip. "We've just been watching them," he said. "They're made to pull and they've done extremely well."

The intern and vets from communities along the wagon train route are examining all the horses on the trip daily to make sure they get enough water and stay cool in the summer weather.

Many of the wagon train participants are experienced horsemen and horsewomen who are helping the rest of the wagon drivers and horseback riders care for their animals.

"These people are taking better care of their horses than they are themselves and their families," Nakano said. The horses typically are watered and fed before their handlers eat.

Water breaks are taken in the morning and afternoon as well as at noon. To cool down the horses, burlap sacks soaked with water are being draped on them, and roads along the way are being wetted down.