Horse Owners Assess Tornado Damage, Losses

Horse owners in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee are assessing damage and calculating losses after a series of early spring tornadoes swept though several counties in those states last week.

According to the National Weather Service, 42 confirmed tornadoes tore through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio on March 2. The storms packed winds as high as 180 mph, knocking out utilities and flattening homes and barns. All told, the confirmed human death toll reached 39, according to the agency. The number of horses lost or injured as a result of the storms is still uncertain.

"We know there are horses missing and roaming the area, but we just don't know much else," said Jim Noel, president of the Indiana Horse Council.

Kentucky was among the hardest hit by the twisters. Farm operators William and Rhonda McCardle lost 15 of the Quarter Horses residing in a barn on their Crittendon, Ky., property when the tornado struck, demolishing the structure. Two horses remain missing. Two surviving horses, a yearling and a 2-week-old foal, were later discovered alive in the barn rubble. Those animals were placed under care at a veterinary hospital in Lexington, Ky., said Sue Haynes, friend of the McCardle family. On March 5 the yearling died as a result of his injuries, Haynes said.

Meanwhile, Kelly Carr, owner of the Saddle Up Arena equine facility in Madison, Ind., said one member of her family lost three of five horses to the storm. Other animals were injured, she said.

"Some had large wounds from flying debris and cuts from hail," she said. "We could see homes and barns just flattened."

In Tennessee, a spokesman for the Jackson County Extension Service of the University of Tennessee, said that Extension Service Manager Cynthia Zeitz was still helping horse owners assess the post-storm damage to animals and other property.

Rebecca Gimenez, PhD, primary instructor and president of the Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, said these early storms are a reminder that horses are particularly at risk for tornado-related injury and death when they are located in a barn when the heavy weather arrives.

"Unless your barn is built like Fort Knox and certified for a high wind event, horses should be in their pastures," Gimenez said. "Horses may get nasty injuries, but they won't be crushed in the barn."

Gimenez also reminds owners to clear their property of any items that might become airborne before a storm strikes. Owners should, whenever possible, remove tree limbs that storm force winds could blow down and remove debris and other items from pastures and paddocks.

While the damage assessments continue, the Kentucky Horse Council is coordinating support for tornado-affected horse owners through the U.S. Equine Disaster Relief Fund. The Fund provides revenue to help horse owners purchase necessities such as feed and fencing in the aftermath of tornados and other devastating storms.

"We are also in touch with the Indiana Horse Council to determine the extent of the need there," said Kentucky Horse Council President Anna Zinkhon.

Meanwhile, those wanting to donate to the U.S. Equine Disaster Relief Fund should visit for details. Anyone interested in helping the McCardle family rebuild should contact Haynes at

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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