In case you hadn’t heard, there are at least six wildfires raging as I sit to write this blog post about horses in California wildfires. There have been human and equine lives lost, and homes decimated. My nerves have been on edge this week, not because there are fires near us (they’re quite far at this point–hours away), but because almost two months ago to the day, we lost our barn home in Canyon Fire 2 in Orange County. My heart is breaking for fellow horse lovers I have never met who are experiencing so much loss.
(Be prepared, this is a long, rambling post. If you just want to know how to help horses in California wildfires, scroll down to the bottom. You can also Pin the above picture to come back to this post later.)
In the weeks that have passed, I have heard first hand accounts of how terrifying “our” fire was. How fast it moved, how close the fire was as my brave friends hand walked horses out of the equestrian center. How the embers that flew through the sky were the size of dinner plates.
I got choked up when I asked one friend who had to evacuate at another nearby barn that day, “How did you plan which horses to trailer out first?” and she said they intentionally took their older horses first and the ones who had health issues already because they didn’t want them to be exposed to the smoke.
I was fully intending to hear that the decision would be made to take the younger, more promising/valuable horses. My heart soared.
For me personally, things are starting to feel normal (whatever that means) with my own horse and barn life. I still don’t have a tack trunk and I need to finalize things with my insurance company to try to recover my losses which at this point I estimate to be in the $5,000 range.
If and when I file my claim, I have been informed my homeowner’s premium will increase by 45% for the next three years. I was floored to learn this (and have enough to say on this matter for a separate blog post).
My horse is fine, my home still standing–so really, I’m more than okay.
Of the six fires going on now from near Santa Barbara (which is a couple of hours north of LA) all the way down to the San Diego area (a couple hours south of LA), there are multiple horse communities which have been hit. You can read about Middle Ranch here, one of the state’s premier equestrian centers that perished in the flames. (The horses were all saved.)
Not far from Middle Ranch another horse facility lost about 30 of their horses (50% of the horses from that property). I don’t have the courage to read the newspaper article about the horses that burned in their stalls. Apparently there were stalls with padlocks on them. I don’t even understand that–padlocking a stall?! Nothing about that makes sense.
FIRE in San Diego at San Luis Rey Downs – the are letting the horses loose bc not enough trailers. If anyone is in the area and can help please do. This is terrible. ** update. Horses are still on property loose on the track. This is good for now but waiting to find out what is needed. Most likely trailers but other reports say they won’t let anyone on the property. As Info comes in we will post. There is an evacuation account you can donate to via @damoorstackandfeed
Thursday night a Thoroughbred training facility in San Diego County had to release their horses because they didn’t have enough time to load up trailers whisk them all away. I got fired up with one of the Instagram people who commented a shaming message about how terrible it was that people would “leave them behind.” I noticed this theme during the floods in Houston. People not near the situation who assign blame.
If you have not been near a wildfire–I hadn’t been until I moved to California–you might not realize that roads get shut down. If that happens, trailers can’t get in and so perhaps the best of all the bad options might be to let horses go free.
I just read this week–I can’t remember where–that if it’s a desperate situation, you should put the horses in a dirt turnout since dirt can’t burn. Right now those future racehorses are loose on their training track. As I was typing this I saw an update that they lost fifteen of them. I believe the facility had hundreds of horses, so not to sound callous, but things could be much more devastating.
Another person who commented on the Instagram post said it was so bad and no cars were allowed in to this area of the Lilac Fire, that her friend had to hike in to get her horse and ride it out.
I don’t have a neat, tidy way to conclude this blog post and there’s so much more I want to say about the power of social media (for good) and the selflessness of ordinary people, but I will leave you with four ways to help horses impacted by California wildfires.
1. Buy one of Hunt Seat Paper Co.’s Equine Warrior Society buttons for $10. Click here to see the button. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to DaMoor’s Tack and Feed (a local tack shop in LA). This store has been a rock star promising to match every donation. They even have an emergency fund set up so they can provide supplies to those in need.
2. Donate directly to DaMoor’s Tack and Feed. They have wishlists set up right now.
3. Share this post on Facebook. By sharing this post you can help us get more eyes on this story which will hopefully inspire other horse lovers to donate/help. Thank you!
If you’re a praying person, your prayers are appreciated. Thank you for reading this post. Hug your ponies and family and little tighter.
Your Turn: Do you have any disasters near you? What have you learned from weathering them?
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