California Update: The Horror of the Fires, the Largesse of the Horse World

Did anyone else do a double-take when the ABC news aired a clip of Olympian Gunter Seidel unloading his dressage horses amidst the goats and ponies and rodeo horses at a local fairground? Yes, the evacuation of horses is the great leveler…and one of those times you are glad you know someone with a six-horse trailer. You’ll vow never to diss the polo trailers again!

While many of the stories stress the hardships of people facing the approaching flames and getting their horses out of harm’s way, there is another story; the story of how people know where to go…and who’s in charge when they get there.

Here’s a press release from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association:


Del Mar Racetrack and the entire staff at the Del Mar Fairgrounds have sprung into action to help those affected and displaced by the rampant wild fires that have engulfed a number of locations in the Southern California area.

Some 2,000 people and another 2,500 animals, including approximately 2,000 horses, have received shelter at the San Diego area racetrack and fairgrounds. Another 200 or so volunteers have descended upon Del Mar to offer any help they can.

“The people have just been great,” said Craig Fravel, Executive Vice President of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. “The vast majority of the work has been done by the Fairgrounds people and their staff, but everyone has been terrific. Yesterday we were running out of food and the feed guys at Santa Anita pitched in with two shipments of animal food. The situation is still fluid, though, and we’re still not out of it.”

Due to a fortuitous shift in the Santa Ana winds, fires that on Tuesday appeared to be heading straight for Del Mar weakened and reversed direction. As a result, many Del Mar area residents were allowed to return to their homes on Wednesday, and the air quality in the area improved noticeably.

“The staff at the Del Mar racetrack and the Fairgrounds has always had the reputation of being an integral part of the local community and never has that been truer than this week,” said Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. “We salute everyone at Del Mar for their invaluable service, and our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all the humans and animals impacted by the fires.”

The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has in place the USEF Equine Disaster Relief Fund and is now requesting contributions from individuals and organizations wishing to assist those in the Southern California area. Money donated to the USEF Equine Disaster Relief Fund assists equines of any breed that find themselves victims of disasters, including but not restricted to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards and fires. The money will be held by USEF in an account restricted for this purpose and disbursed only upon authorization of the USEF Chief Executive Officer.

“During situations like this, it’s imperative that we gather forces to assist in any way possible,” said USEF Chief Executive Officer John Long. “Thankfully, the weather forecasts are good. However, Southern California just experienced the largest evacuation of residents in our country’s history. Of course, that has had an impact on the countless horses that call that part of the state home. The Federation wants to do what it can to assist those horses and owners.”

Donations may be made online at

If you wish to contribute to the effort by check, please make it out to the USEF Equine Disaster Relief Fund and mail it to: The United States Equestrian Federation, 4047 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY 40511.




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