Horse Owners' Needs Still Urgent after Katrina and Rita

It's a common trend--people don't break out the checkbooks months after a disaster event as readily as they do immediately after the crisis. Time passes, other calamities arise, and well-meaning donors change their focus. The salty water drowned pastures in Louisiana and Mississippi months ago, but the needs of horse owners in those areas left incapacitated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita remain critical, according to area residents and veterinarians. Just about all horse owners on the Gulf Coast needs quality square bales of hay and good horse feed.

Ky Mortensen of the Louisiana State University Equine Health Studies Program has been corresponding with several veterinarians on shortages in Vermilion Parish. He said one veterinarian "confirmed that the horses in this area have no pasture, hay is like gold down there, and that the vaccines would help.

"The biggest problem is that the folks down there are really suffering a financial burden due to all of the losses they have incurred," Mortensen added. "The salt content of the pastures is still quite high and no grass is growing. They need hay to support their herds, and they simply don't have the money to purchase hay and vaccines for all of the horses under their care."

Andrew Granger, county agent with the LSU Ag Center, said Vermilion Parish horse owners are currently trying to get about 800 horses through the winter. He did the math and thinks that about 6,400 square bales of good-quality hay are in order, since it will be mid-March before grass should begin to come back.

If you would like to donate hay or funds to buy hay for Vermilion horses, Granger said you can call him (337/898-4335). He said some people who wanted to donate have called Camp Cooley Ranch in Texas directly, and they have provided good-quality, inexpensive hay and delivered it to Vermilion over the past few months.

"Even if we get three to four loads of hay, you're going a long way to meet a lot of these horses' needs," he added.
You can continue to help the general needs of horse owners in Louisiana by making donations to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association Equine Committee. Make the check payable to the LVMA Equine Committee, write "Horse Hurricane Relief" on the memo line, and send the donation to Dr. Sonny Corley, LVMA Equine Committee, 121 E. Gloria Switch, Lafayette, LA  70507

According to Carla L. Huston, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVPM, assistant professor of epidemiology at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, conditions are dire for horse owners in Mississippi as well. "The biggest needs (along Mississippi's Gulf Coast) are hay and feed, because as you know, a lot of the feed supplies are ruined, and it's very difficult right now to get feed in. There are a lot of people are willing to donate hay, but if we could get folks also willing to donate transportation for the hay, that would be great.

"The central distribution site (in Jackson) has been closed," she said. "At this point, the county extension offices are a good resource for making donations." Two counties that require a lot of help are Hancock and Pearl River.

Hay and feed donations to Pearl River County can be made by contacting Mike Mitchell of the Pearl View County Board of Supervisors (601/795-8038). "There are a lot of horse owners here in Pearl River County…more horse owners now than cattle owners," said Mitchell. "A lot of people had to sell their cattle on the account that they didn't have any fencing." Another contact to donate hay and feed is Larry Fitzgerald (601/337-1313), who works a farm for MSU in Pearl River County.

"Horse owners seem to be willing to buy hay to some extent, but finding good quality hay is a problem," said Mike Keene, an area agent for livestock and forages for the MSU Extension (he can be reached about donations at "We have been working with the junior colleges to help with transportation, and if we could get hay donated or at a reasonable price in-state, we can help with transportation."

Keene said you could also donate feed and hay to Hancock County horse owners by contacting Gwen Smith of MSU Extension service (, 228/216-3444). Smith explained, "We have no way of paying for the transport of this hay, so if they call me and say they've got hay, there has to be a coordinated effort in order for it to get here, otherwise it isn't worth anything to us."

Some organizations have worked with the National Guard to move hay during their weekend drills. She suggested farmers coordinate with one another on donations of hay and transport, or they can sell the hay to Gulf Coast area farmers for a minimal cost to help cover the transport.

Huston has hope for the horse industry of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. "Progress is slow…I'm in constant contact with some of the producers, veterinarians, and animal owners, and they're still in the recovery stage," sais Huston. "We do appreciate all the continued support that we've had since Aug. 29-Sept. 1. Our biggest concern is this is going to be a long recovery.

"I think (residents) realize that this is a long haul and you know, unfortunately, people realize they can't keep their animals," Huston continued. "They have been making special provisions for their animals to be fostered, sold, or to be moved elsewhere. It's part of the recovery process. I'm confident that the coast is going to recover and come back better than ever."

Editor's Note: For more information on organizations accepting donations that will benefit horses and other animals following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, please click here.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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