Hurricane Update: Horses in Coastal Texas Receive Care, Hay

As of the afternoon of Sept. 17, about 100 horses remained on Galveston Island, while another 23 had been moved to a staging area on the mainland for further care, according to Jerry Finch, president of Habitat for Horses, an equine protection organization based in Galveston County.

Finch said the horses remaining on the island are being cared for by volunteers, while others bring donated hay, feed, and fresh water to the site.

The horses removed from the island are now at Jack Brooks Park in Santa Fe, Texas. This is also the central location for hay donations, which will be distributed to horses at the park as well as those still on the island. Finch said they still need square bales of horse-quality hay, as well as water buckets and feed tubs. "We're taking a whole mess of feed down there for folks who are taking care of their own horses but have no way to access feed or anything," Finch stated.

The current project is getting hay and fresh water to Bolivar Peninsula, off the northern coast of Galveston. Finch reported that there's a large group of horses and cattle there, but there was no way to access them currently, as the ferry and road are both out of commission.

"We're trying to get a helicopter to get hay over," Finch said. "The Texas Animal Health Commission is working real hard. There are a lot of horses, and we need to get hay and fresh water over there. We don't have much more time on those."

On the mainland, William Moyer, DVM, professor of sports medicine and head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, reports that the school hasn't been called to assist in any emergency situations involving horses as yet.

"The calls that we are aware of, looking for help, have not come from the horse and the cattle side, other than for feed and clean water," Moyer said. "Most of what the college has been involved with and trying to help with has been on the small animal side. Some of those small animal shelters have either no power or not enough help, but I think they're getting it."

Moyer attributes the relative calm to coastal horse owners' prompt evacuations ahead of time.

Cowboys on horses herd cattle toward fresh water after Hurricane Ike

Cowboys herd loose cattle up Texas 124 from ranches flooded by Hurricane Ike in the Bolivar Peninsula area on Monday, Sept. 15, 2008. Workers were trying to get the animals to fresh water.

"People in that area moved and evacuated a lot of horses," Moyer said, noting that one acquaintance took in more than 200 horses, two days before the storm got close to shore. "An awful lot of the horses were already out of there."

Many of the headlines surrounding animal care in the hurricane's wake involve fence repair and rounding up loose animals. One report estimated that 20,000 head of cattle and horses were displaced in Chambers and Jefferson counties.

However, Moyer said he expects farmers and horse owners to get a handle on it. "These Texans are pretty good at fixing stuff in a hurry," he said.

Some of the groups overseeing animal and agricultural recovery include AgriLife Extension, the Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas Department of Agriculture, Independent Cattleman's Association, Texas 2-1-1, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association, Governor's Division of Emergency Management State Operations Center, and Chambers County officials.

Texas A&M has set up a "No Fences" Hurricane Ike Horse and Cattle Relief Fund. To make a tax deductible cash or credit card donation call 979/845-2604 or go to  

To make a donation of hay, feed, water troughs, transportation, and other in-kind donations, call the Texas Department of Agriculture's Hay Hotline 877/429-1998 or 800/835-5832 and press zero.

Habitat for Horses is also accepting volunteers and donations. Volunteers can contact the group via 866/434-5737, and donations can be made through the group's Web site,, or mailed.

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. She owns a portly gray gelding named Duncan and dabbles in several equestrian disciplines, with an emphasis on dressage.

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