Jan. 5, 2006 -- When the clouds cleared on August 30, 2005, the full aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was shockingly revealed, and before the Gulf area could even assess all the damage another blow was struck by Hurricane Rita.
Almost immediately after Katrina, an unprecedented outpouring of assistance from the equestrian community across the United States and Canada resulted in thousands of emails to the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) with offers of shelter for horses and inquiries about sending much needed supplies. This generosity also included donations to the USEF Hurricane Equine Relief Fund, which received a total of just over $283,000, all of which has been sent to relief organizations.
The donations came in the form of a single dollar from young children, small collections made by 4-H clubs and checks for thousands from individuals and foundations. Some came with letters asking that the donations be made in memory of a beloved human friend or horse, others with drawings by children and many with words of encouragement for the overall effort.
The USEF has distributed all of the funds to those agencies and organizations on the front lines of the assistance effort in the Gulf area. These organizations either played a vital role in the rescue of horses and ponies in the immediate aftermath of the hurricanes, or were created specifically to assist in the longer-term care of the equine victims.
The USEF Hurricane Equine Relief Fund has been disbursed as follows:
The United States Army/Blue Devils Horse Platoon - $8,200
Funds were for the support of the U.S Army's "Operation Pegasus" which deployed volunteer Army and Army Reserve personnel to spearhead equine rescue and assistance efforts in Mississippi in cooperation with the Mississippi State Veterinarian's office.
Habitat for Horses/Lone Star Equine Rescue - $25,000
This Texas organization assisted the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Science in the rescue of horses. This organization also supplied food for horses and ponies in the area after the hurricane and cared for others in their Texas facility.
Louisiana State University Foundation/Equine Studies Program - $15,000
The LSU School of Veterinary Science managed the rescue and care of thousands of animal victims including hundreds of horses. It tirelessly cared for them at the evacuation facility at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center. The LSU Equine Studies vets and students were the backbone of the rescue teams that braved the deplorable conditions to rescue horses and ponies.
Mississippi Animal Disaster Relief Fund - $125,900
This fund was established by the Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association, Inc., to provide support to animals in the state's hard hit Gulf region. The USEF funds have been specifically earmarked for equine relief.
Louisiana Veterinary Medical Assoc. Equine Committee Foundation - $108,900
As in Mississippi, this foundation will continue to support the needs of afflicted equines in the hard hit regions of Louisiana.
"We determined that the best use of funds was to get them to those agencies which were interacting directly in the effort. They had the widest mandate to provide appropriate assistance and understand the specific needs in those areas," said Maria Partlow, USEF Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communication. "We learned from this experience that the USEF can play an important role in disaster preparedness and response. We are discussing this with other national organizations with a goal of developing a protocol for our role, and that of other large breed organizations, in supporting local officials in an emergency situation."