Event Celebrates Equine Volunteers at Lamar-Dixon

The scene at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center during the past five weeks has been all business. Veterinarians, veterinary students, and volunteers have dutifully cared for the facility's residents--Katrina's equine refugees that were rescued from their flooded or storm-torn homes. But for a few hours last night (Oct. 9), the pace slowed and a pair of hulking Percherons--one gray and one black--pulled a festive wagon around the property to thank the very people that rescued and cared for them and about 350 other horses. There was barbeque, cake, and laughter.

Rustin Moore, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, director of the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine's Equine Health Studies Program, said about 60 people were in attendance at the barbeque. "It was a time for people to get together and have a good time and reflect and thank each other," he said.

The past six weeks at the facility have been intense. Beginning Sept. 1, 364 rescued horses or mules were checked into the facility. Since then it's been a massive effort involving hundreds of people to care for the animals and reconnect them with their owners.

Bonnie Clark, president of the Louisiana Equine Council, has headed up equine operations at the facility. For her it was a time of fun and sharing. "We barbequed for everyone, brought Lamar-Dixon a big cake, and I was able to drive my first carriage!" she said.

Louis Charbonnet, owner of Charbonnet Mid-City Carriages in New Orleans (www.TheHorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=6114) hitched up several of his carriage horses for rides throughout the evening. A smiling Darnell Stewart, one of the men who stayed behind with Mid-City's horses until their rescue, drove the Percherons around while wearing a big cowboy hat, said Moore.

The effort at Lamar-Dixon hasn't ended. Clark wasn't able to make the announcement that every rescued horse had been identified as she had hoped. "I've still got a couple that I'm working on (identifying), and there are about 20 that have chips in them and no owners' names yet."

"Mainly, I'm trying to get the owned horses out and home as we can," she said. Between 50 and 60 owned horses were shipped out to their home stables or temporary housing on Saturday, and another 10 left yesterday. She said that more would be leaving today and tomorrow. About 90 animals, including a few goats, are currently at the facility. "The majority are owned and claimed and we're rushing to find places to put the animals," said Clark.

"We have until the 15th to get everyone out," Clark added. "I'm still looking for potential foster facilities to handle some of the horses until their owners can be located with the microchips."

Moore, normally an equine surgeon, has been a hay broker for two solid days, he said. After playing a multitude of roles 24/7 in the post-hurricane effort, he has helped organize the delivery of 200 round bales for Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parish livestock. Needs will continue to be met as they arise.

Dispelling Rumors

A continual frustration mentioned in prior stories on www.TheHorse.com has been the perpetuation of rumors that have arisen on the Internet about the fates of horses housed at Lamar-Dixon. One of the latest rumors purported that 300 horses at Lamar-Dixon would be euthanatized if their owners weren't found. Clark stated emphatically, "Neither myself nor anyone out here would spend six weeks sleeping out by the stalls to make sure none of the horses were stolen, and then turn around and do that," she said. "That's really pretty sad."

She requests that horse enthusiasts please check the facts before perpetuating online rumors about equine victims of Katrina.

Please watch www.TheHorse.com/2005hurricanes for updates on the hurricane recovery.

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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