Oklahoma Horse Owners Face Tornado Devastation
This photo from May 21 shows the Main Barn at the Orr Family Farm. The Main Barn was used for group events, wedding receptions, and other events associated with the Orr Family Farm.
Photo: Orr Family Farm
This article was updated at 7:45 EDT on May 22 to reflect updated information provided to TheHorse.com.
After two days of high winds and driving rains, horse owners in Oklahoma are assessing their losses while bracing for yet another round of strong storms.
According to the National Weather Service, a series of an estimated 14 strong storms swept through the Southern Plains May 18 through May 20, cutting a swathe of devastation through Oklahoma. The storms were particularly damaging to Moore, part of the Oklahoma City metro area, and nearby regions including Carney, located just northeast of Oklahoma City. At press time, officials indicated at least 24 people had died as a result of the storms.
How to Help Horses and Owners Affected by the Tornadoes
In the wake of the Oklahoma tornadoes, individuals, businesses, and organizations are stepping up to help the horse community recover. Here's a list of some opportunities available to prospective donors.
See Federal Trade Commission resources on how to make donations wisely: www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity.
Oklahoma State University's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences is offering care for animals injured during the storm. Owners and referring veterinarians can call 405/744-7000 to arrange for care. Meanwhile, contributions to defray the cost of this care can be made online at www.cvhs.okstate.edu/oarf or by calling 405/385-5607.
The Benchmark Animal Hospital in Carney, Okla., is offering help to storm-injured animals. Call 405/547-8381 for details.
The Orr family, operators of Orr Family Farm, have established a hotline for those wishing to contribute to the farm's recovery. Call 405/283-2258 to register.
Red Earth Feed and Tack in Oklahoma City is collecting contributions of halters, lead ropes, and other equipment, as well as feed and cash contributions to compensate veterinarians providing storm-related animal care. Call 405/478-3424 for details.
The Women's Horse Industry Network is collecting donations for storm impacted horse owners. Visit www.womenshorseindustry.com or call 615/730-7833 for details.
The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) is accepting donations for those affected by the tornadoes. Contributions of non-perishable food items, toiletries, gloves, buckets, and shovels can be brought to the AQHA headquarters in Amarillo, Texas. Call 806/376-4811 for details.
On May 21, Marva Miller Hamlin, of the Oklahoma Horse Council, said that emergency responders and utility and municipal crews were sifting through debris in Moore.
“It's hard to get information out of there because they have not restored power and they're trying to conserve what power they have for emergency purposes,” Hamlin said. “But we do know that this was a big storm; no one knew where it would go up or touch down.”
Toby and Jaycee Bogart were at their Bogart Farm, near Oklahoma City, when the storm initially hit and could do little more than watch the storm roll through. Damage to their farm, which is home to 17 horses in addition to herds of cows and goats, was ultimately minor.
“We could see it coming and it was pretty scary,” Toby Bogart said. “Fortunately our damage was minimal—just a few trees.”
Other equine facilities were not so lucky. According to reports, an estaimated 100 horses were lost at Celestial Acres, a facility located on the Orr Family Farm, an agri-education and agritourism destination located in suburban Oklahoma City. Orr Family Farm spokesman Tony Vann said that Celestial Acres provided boarding and training facilities for Thoroughbred horses. Vann said he could not yet confirm the exact number of horses lost at the facility during the tornadoes.
“We just don't know how many horses were there and how many were taken out by their owners or trainers,” he said.
Vann did confirm that more than three of the five barns on the site were demolished.
“They're just not there,” he said.
As soon as the storm subsided, local horse owner Yvette Fees began helping to coordinate the horse community's response to the storm aftermath, including helping relocate horses from damaged properties to safer ones. Fees said she has no idea how many horses have been relocated or how long it will be before they can return to their home pastures.
“We're pretty much on lockdown here; it's hard to get around and they're finding debris as far as 95 miles away,” Fees said.
Meanwhile, she said Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel are assisting local authorities and individuals in assessing storm-related devastation. Volunteer veterinarians are also on the scene assessing and treating injured animals, Fees said.
“We've heard that they've had a lot of animals that had to be put down,” Fees said.
In the storm's aftermath, individuals, businesses, and veterinary practices are stepping up to help owners care for surviving animals. Toby Bogart said he has plenty of pasture space for displaced horses, as well as equipment to help his neighbors clear their properties of debris.
Meanwhile, Jean Sander, DVM, dean of the Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Services, said that the center will provide veterinary care for horses and other animals injured in the storm. In Carney, veterinarians at the Benchmark Animal Hospital are offering to help equine survivors. Additionally, the Orr family has established a hotline for donors who have offered feed and other resources as well as pasture space to animals connected to the farm (see sidebar for more information on how to help).
While recovery efforts continue, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting more storms bringing damaging winds, rain, and hail to the region. Horse owners in the region are hoping for the best.
“So far we've survived by the skin of our teeth,” Jaycee Bogart said.
About the Author
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.