First Effects of Hurricane Irma Brush South Florida’s Horse Country

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Horse being taken for walk minutes before the first effects of Hurricane Irma at Lars Petersen’s and Melissa Taylor’s Legacy Farm in Loxahatchee, Florida. Note the truck and trailer being sheltered in the covered arena. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Sept. 9, 2017–The first effects of Hurricane Irma brushed South Florida’s horse country with rain bursts and increasing winds Saturday but the most destructive impact was expected on the state’s west coast. With no change in the projected track, the major effect of Irma on the horse communities centered around Wellington would be winds gusting between 75 and 100 miles (120/160 km) an hour Sunday evening.

The eye of the hurricane would be located at Ft. Myers on Florida’s west coast and about 100 miles/160 km from Wellington that would put the major horse populations out of the category 4 hurricane zone.

Wellington and surrounding communities were virtual ghost towns Saturday.

Several trainers and horse owners had moved their horses to show grounds such as the Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina, 10 hours away and well out of the path of the hurricane while the large number that remained, most in solid concrete block barns, spent the past several days preparing for the worst.

Protection for mirrors in the indoor arena at the stables of dressage trainer Oded Shimoni and jumper rider Nataly Liebovitz in Wellington. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The latest advisory from the U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast Irma to reach the Florida Keys Sunday morning and “is expected to move along or near the southwest coast of Florida Sunday afternoon.”

Irma was rated a category 3 with maximum sustained winds  near 125 miles/205 km an hour with higher
gusts.

“Irma is forecast to restrengthen once it moves away from Cuba, and Irma is expected to remain a powerful
hurricane as it approaches Florida,” the center said.

Dressage trainer Ilse Schwarz preparing to put Lukas, a 24-year-old Australian-bred gelding, into a stall ahead of the first rainfall from Hurricane Irma. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
The deserted Global Dressage Festival grounds receiving the first rain from the outer bands of Hurrican Irma. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Bags of shavings and truck trailers protecting feed store. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Stores boarded up in Wellington. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com