Tennessee Tornadoes: Horse Owners Recovering

The community of Williamson County, Tenn., is still reeling from the trio of tornadoes that ripped through Tennessee Feb. 5 and 6. The storms destroyed homes, demolished barns, and swept up horses in strong winds, according to resident Vivi Miller.

"It's chaos," said Miller of her community, which is just west of Nashville. "We had three storm cells that came through and of those two hit our area. During the storms barns were blown down with horses in them, and some horses were thrown out of their barns and into fields."

Among those was a Quarter Horse that was carried more than 100 feet, and a 30-year old pony mare tossed over her pasture fence and into an adjacent cattle pasture by strong winds.

Supplies, equipment, and feed--including hay, which was already in short supply--weren't spared, Miller said.

"Hay was blown everywhere or got wet," she said.

Just days after the storms rolled through Tennessee, Williamson and 12 other counties were designated Federal Disaster Areas. The designation qualifies commercial horse industry operators eligible for Small Business Administration loans, said Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jay Eaker. But local agencies are taking the lead helping non-commercial horse owners recover.

"Hay is available through Tennessee Emergency Management Agency," said Melissa Riley, planning officer for the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency, and leader of that county's Disaster Animal Response Team. "We've been in Macon County locating foster homes for some donkeys that were displaced by the storm, and we're working to get feed and foster homes for horses that were (already) starving because of the lack of hay before the storm."

The private sector is stepping up, too, Miller said. Within a week after the storm, a private donor responded to Miller's Internet blog with equipment and medical supplies. Farm supply retailers are also pitching in, offering donors a chance to purchase gift cards for distribution to storm affected horse and other livestock owners.

"People need everything," said Miller, who is fostering a group of horses displaced by the storm. "It's probably going to take a year to recover completely."

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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