Evacuation of Some Horses From South Florida Ahead of Category 5 Hurricane Irma

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Horses being loaded at the Palm Beach Equestrian Center to leave Wellington, Florida ahead of the feared arrival of the category 5 Hurricane Irma by the end of the week. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Sept. 5, 2017–The first horses being evacuated from South Florida ahead of the category 5 Hurricane Irma left Wellington Tuesday night, but most owners were willing to stay put as they reinforced barns in preparation for what the U.S. government described as the “potentially catastrophic” storm arriving by the weekend.

Many horses are heading directly to Tryon International Equestrian Center 725 miles/1,170km northeast of Wellington that is opening the huge permanent show grounds to horses and riders in the projected path of Irma in South Florida.

Among the first to leave was a transport of 11 horses from the Palm Beach Equestrian Center next to the Global Dressage Festival grounds. Kelly Layne, a Wellington-based Australian, was managing that group of horses heading to Atlanta, Georgia before going on to Tryon for next week’s World Cup CDI.

Devon Kane of Diamante Farms in Wellington is planning to leave with 27 horses Wednesday night, the hours of darkness preferred for travel in case trucks carrying horses are delayed during hot sunny days. Heide Degele, a trainer based in neighboring Loxahatchee, was also leaving.

Lars Petersen and Melissa Taylor put off leaving their Loxahatchee barn with 34 horses until early next week to go directly to Tryon where some are entered in the CDI.

Several other trainers and owners, including Oded Shimoni and Ilse Schwarz, another Australian based in Wellington whose roof on her house had to be replaced after a hurricane damage more than a decade ago, have also decided to stay. Many have equipped homes and barns with windows capable of withstanding high impacts, backup water supplies and generators for electricity.

Four hundred stalls are available for evacuees at the Tryon center at a discounted rate, available on a first come, first serve basis, the management of the venue announced Tuesday,

Tryon is about 270 miles/435km from the coast of the Carolinas, well away from the area that could be impacted by the hurricane.

South Florida’s equestrian community has grown to become year round in the Wellington area with the explosive development of dressage and jumping in the past decade.

Concerns about the impact of Irma comes just 12 days after the category 4 Hurrican Harvey with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles/215 km per hour devastated areas of south Texas, including Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States.

Harvey is estimated to have caused damage estimated as high as $180/€150 billion and 65 deaths, most due to more than 40 inches/100 cm of rain in four days.

The U.S. Equestrian Federation reported Tuesday that its Equine Disaster Relief Fund has received more than $400,000 in donations and pledges, with 100 per cent of the funds going to relief efforts by the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Texas A&M University, the Texas Equine Veterinary Association and other equine rescue organizations.

The Tryon organization gave this information on efforts to provide emergency shelter to horses and humans:

–To reserve stalls at Tryon International Equestrian Center call 828-863-1005.

–Johnson Horse Transportation, Inc. is helping coordinate commercial shipments to the Carolinas from South Florida. Contact Johnson at 610-488-7220.

On-site lodging is available at a discounted rate for hurricane evacuees. Recreational vehicle spaces are also  available. On-site dining and supplies are available through The General Store and a variety of restaurants on property will be open throughout the week. Call 828-863-1001 or book online at www.tryon.com for human accommodation.