Publisher Tries to Keep Equine Magazine Going After Hurricanes

For more than eight weeks, Bonnie Clark, president of the Louisiana Equine Council (LEC) and publisher of Horseman's Guide of the South Central Region, set her life aside, unpaid, to head up an operation at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, La. There, she helped reunite 357 rescued horses and mules with their owners following Hurricane Katrina.

Now that only seven horses (all with permanent identification) await claim, Clark's trying to pick up where she left off with her magazine. Katrina hit at a point in the production cycle where the magazine would have accrued more than $50,000 in advertising. However, many of the advertisers' businesses were destroyed by the hurricane, some relocated, and most just cannot afford to advertise at this time. Normally, Clark would have 300-350 advertisers. She's down to 63.

The effects of the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes on the horse industry extend far beyond the destruction of barns, businesses, and riding facilities in specific locales. Every aspect of the industry is interconnected. Business owners in hurricane-stricken areas are waiting for small business loan approvals or insurance payouts to keep their enterprises afloat. Those outside the stricken areas, such as farriers, veterinarians, feed store owners, and other equine entrepreneurs, are trying to hold on until the local horse economy rebounds. Among those is Clark.

Clark's free equine industry directory relies entirely on its advertisers, 80% of which cannot renew their advertising due to the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Her publication normally is read by up to 15,000 horse owners, many of whom rely on its contents for running their businesses.

Horse People Helping Their Own

Clark minimizes her own losses and refers to other small businesses that have been impacted, using farrier Dick Fanguy, CJF, of Chauvin, La., as an example. Fanguy did a lot of work on horses brought to Lamar-Dixon, and many of his clients have either lost their horses or relocated. Another business owner, Louis Charbonnet of Charbonnet Mid-City Carriages in New Orleans (link), has 30 horses and mules back in the stables, but only two or three of his animals are out on the streets giving carriage rides because of the shortage of tourists. Clark said, "If you add me, Dick, Louis, and everybody else, I cannot even fathom what the economic losses are going to be."

Clark added, "I went to a county Extension Agent's meeting at LSU (Louisiana State University) this week, and we were talking about the economic impact. I said, 'OK, look at it this way, we have two racetracks that are shut down, you have to consider grooms, all of the employees, and the amount of money that one racetrack contributed to that location. For nine weeks, they've had no income and the people that work there have had no jobs. In other words, the storm devastated the people that were hit head-on, but it has also affected the people that weren't hit head-on and the entire industry. It's probably affected most of the nation, as far as the horse industry goes.' "

As in any crisis, horse people and businesses have banded together to survive, regardless of breed or discipline preference. Clark is one of many helping secure donated hay and feed for impacted areas, and she's doing all she can to make sure that when feed and hay are purchased, that it's done in the state. "We want to take donated feed to places where there are no feed stores yet, such as St. Bernard and some areas of New Orleans," she explained. "I don't want to cut into (feed store owners') business. They need to survive, too. We're going to let the horse industry take care of its own, because it looks like no one else is going to do it."

Getting it Done

The Horseman's Guide was supposed to publish on Dec. 1, but Clark now must catch up on more than two months of editorial and photography (she's doing write-ups on the hurricane), and she still must design and lay out the book. She does everything on the publication except print the book. "Thank God I didn't have any employees to lay off," she said.

Clark won't be able to use her usual printer because of time constraints, and printing a glossy, full-color publication of the format that she uses is very expensive. She's trying to attract corporate sponsorships of any kind and says she'll probably put an advertisers' name on the cover (if she can find one) just to foot the bills. "I never once put anyone's name on the front cover…I thought it would compromise my integrity somewhat," she said. "But I know in order to raise the kind of money that we need for printing, I'm going to have to do something."

In the meantime, Clark tries to focus on the positive that has happened in the past two months, recalling the grateful tears of horse owners who lost everything but were reconnected with their horses at Lamar. "I wouldn't change a thing," Clark said. “There were things we could've done better, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. (Running the horse hurricane evacuation facility) was my job, and like a lot of other people, I did it and never even thought twice about it."

Editor's Note: If you are interested contacting Clark about the Horseman's Guide of the South Central Region, e-mail or call 888/784-8760.

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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