Volunteers Care for Horses after Washington Mudslide

Horses impacted by a mudslide that obliterated parts of Snohomish County in rural Washington state are being cared for by area volunteers.

On March 22, a hillside collapsed near the community of Oso, resulting in a mudslide that divided the town and covered part of Washington State Route 530. The mudslide's human death toll is approximately 30 people, according to estimates released by Snohomish County law enforcement and fire authorities. 

Along with the human casualties, 30 horses displaced by the mudslide are receiving care from volunteers, said Margie Bates of the Darrington Horse Owners Association (DHOA). When the mudslide and subsequent Stillaguamish River flooding occurred, the DHOA opened its rodeo grounds to horses and other domestic animals displaced by the mud and water. Bates said nine horses are currently residing at the rodeo grounds.

“Those are horses whose families are here, but who have been dislocated by mud and floor waters from the Stillaguamish River,” she said.

Another 21 horses receiving care were owned or previously rescued by Summer Raffo, a local horsewoman and part-time farrier who was killed in the mudslide, Bates said.

“Summer had some horses of her own and rescued other horses,” Bates said. “All the horses are being looked after by a volunteer.”

Bates said Raffo was driving on State Route 530 when the mudslide hit.

In addition, the DHOA has established a food bank for the displaced animals, Bates said. So far, both feed companies and individuals have contributed to the food bank.

“We've had people just stop us and put money into our hands,” Bates said. “The support has just been incredible.”

Bates said the horses residing at the rodeo grounds will remain there until it is safe for them to return to their families. A volunteer will continue to look after Raffo's horses until a decision is made about their future.

“(Raffo's) family is still grieving and a decision will be made as to what will become of the horses at a later date,” Bates said. “Right now, people are still coping with the slide.”

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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