Hawaii Horses Shaken, but Safe after Earthquake

An early morning earthquake on Sunday (Oct. 15) caused more than $74 million in damage to Hawaii buildings and roadways, but horses rode out the magnitude 6.6 rumble with no major catastrophes. According to several equine veterinarians on the islands, there were some momentarily displaced and panicked horses, but for the most part, all is well on Hawaii's horse front.

According to the Associated Press, Sunday's earthquake was the strongest to hit Hawaii in more than 20 years, but no human deaths or serious injuries were reported, and the damage was relatively scattered. The quake hit near Hawaii's Big Island, which spans about 4,000 square miles, most of which is undeveloped or used for agriculture. A Federal Emergency Management Agency team began surveying the damage Tuesday.

Patrick D'Angelo, DVM, a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), lives in Honalo, which is just south of Kailua-Kona and 10-15 miles south of the earthquake's epicenter. He co-owns Horseplay Equestrian Center, a boarding and riding facility where he also hospitalizes some of his patients. "It was pretty exciting for awhile," he says of the quake, "The animals all panicked like you'd expect them to. Several went through some fences and got some contusions and abrasions. Not much in the way of emergencies after, so it seems most everyone fared okay.

"One horse (a hospitalized ranch horse that wasn't used to being stabled) ripped a big heavy stall door off and carried it 20-30 feet down the aisle way," he adds. "He wasn't any worse than he was before the earthquake."

Horseplay hosts a United States Pony Clubs chapter and a therapeutic riding program, and it is home to mainly dressage and jumping horses. D'Angelo says of the residents, "It seems like the horses all head for high ground. It's an interesting thing. They all ran up to the top of the hill. I talk to a lot of people, and everyone says that if anything ever happens like that they want to go to high ground."

Alan Kaufman, DVM, a Kula resident and AAEP veterinarian, says he hasn't heard of any injuries to people, horses, dogs, or cats in his area as a result of the quake. "It was a pretty good shake--biggest since 1983--but little damage. So far there are none of the usual stories of 'unusual' animal behavior preceding the event."

Another AAEP member, Scott Sims, DVM, lives and practices on Kauai Island. "I must confess it wasn't all that exciting on my island," he says. "We shook back and forth for a little while. The first time was pretty noticeable, the second was very brief. As far as I know there were no effects on any of the horses. I'm the only large animal vet on Kauai so I probably would have heard. The quake was centered off of Kona, which is about 350 miles from here, so the relative mildness here isn't so terribly surprising."

Damage Minimal, Considering Quake's Strength
D'Angelo has experienced several quakes, having lived and worked in California. He was driving on the back side of the Alameda County Fairgrounds racetrack when the 1989 Loma Prieta quake hit the San Francisco Bay Area.  He remembers listening to the World Series game between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants on the radio when the 7.1-magnitude quake hit. "I didn't even notice until the announcers started freaking out and I noticed the telephone poles swaying," he recalls. That quake caused more than $6 billion in property damage.

"It's great that there was so little injury to both people and animals" in Sunday's earthquake, says D'Angelo. "It's pretty amazing considering the magnitude of the quake. There was breakage...a lot of breakage, a lot of things coming off shelves and shelves collapsing. There were a few homes that suffered some pretty major damage, but even then, that wasn't much. There are still a few people looking for their cats."

Kaufman adds, "The real story is we can be glad that with buildings constructed to code, damage was minimal (broken glass). The same strength quake in much of the rest of the world would create widespread damage, injury, and death."

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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