Hold a Thought for California Horses in the Fire's Path

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by Fran Jurga | 30 August 2009 | The Jurga Report

This blog publishes a lot of advice and safety information about disasters and evacuation. My heart sinks every time an emergency situation affects horses and I wonder how well prepared people are.

That's the case today, with the California wildfires blazing in the hills outside Los Angeles. Tragically, two firefighters have been killed, caught in a fireball as they tried to escape.

Of course horse owners have been complying with evacuation orders. The Los Angeles Equestrian Center at Griffith Park was full by Saturday, and the latest order has horses being sent to Pierce College in Woodland Hills, which also hosted evacuee equines in 2007.

But my heart broke when I saw this image today in a gallery of startling fire images on the Charlotte Observor web site. The caption says that this two-year-old had not been trained to load onto a trailer so he was being pickup-ponied to safety. One can only wonder how many miles this horse had to travel and what shape his feet might have been in at the end of his journey. A horse trailer ramp might look pretty good after a few miles. With luck he had some protection for his hooves.

People are doing what they can for horses to get them out of the fire's path.

As of last night, this fire was only 5 percent contained. The area is particularly popular with horse owners. Rainbow Ranch, which is home to 60 horses, and the non-profit Animal Acres are two of the many horse facilities under evacuation orders. Animal Acres put out a call yesterday with a wish list for help: Trucks, trailers, pickup trucks with camper shells (for the birds), carriers for the birds (chickens, turkeys, etc.), large water bowls, people good with herding, animal soothers, bedding, food, water hoses. That's a pretty good list of priorities during a disaster, assuming they have some veterinary expertise and fresh water available as well. Animal shelters and rescue farms generally are not easy to move, and many animals in their care have special needs.

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