Three Chimneys presents Good News Friday: Oklahoma Strong - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Three Chimneys presents Good News Friday: Oklahoma Strong

A horse is found alive amid the destruction of Monday’s tornado

There was hardly a breath of good news in Moore, Okla. Monday afternoon. The air that had unleashed its spinning fury on the community was too thick in the aftermath with stories of heartbreak and devastation.

In the equine community, there were tales of flattened farms, piles of dead animals, and people who lost everything – their homes, their horses, their equipment, their livelihoods.

But the tragedy also prompted an outpouring of human spirit, giving, and tireless labor. And those are the stories now filling the air.

“As you might expect from the legendary resiliency of Oklahomans, the community has really pulled together, and in particular, the horse community,” said Scott Wells, president and general manager of nearby Remington Park racetrack and casino.

Remington is one of many equine enterprises pitching in to help horse people, their neighbors, and the horses impacted by Monday's powerful storm. Wells said the racetrack immediately collected “a mountain of supplies for families in the horse industry who've been displaced or otherwise had their lives torn apart.”

Friday afternoon, the racetrack will host a blood drive to benefit tornado victims. Five racehorses, who had been stabled at the destroyed Celestial Acres Training Center, were found alive and brought to Remington for care. The track veterinarian was dispatched to Moore, about 15 miles south of Remington, to help wherever he could.

“Our track vet, Dr. John Chancey, is just doing a heroic job over there, trying to bring aid to some of the people, some of the horses hardest hit,” Wells said.

Supplies were collected at Remington Park for horsemen and their families
Supplies were collected at Remington Park for horsemen and their families

Several racing trainers based at Celestial Acres lost every one of their horses, plus all of their feed, tack and supplies.

“It's like their business blowing away,” said Debbie Schauf, executive director of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association (OQHRA). Her group, and the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma (TRAO), have created a fund to distribute to horsemen and their families.

“The most immediate need is the guys that were hardest hit at Celestial Acres. Their barns were wiped out and their horses were all killed,” Schauf said. “When they come in here right now, I'm giving each of them $1,000 … to help cover living expenses for the next few days or weeks until we can figure out what else we can do to help them. Hopefully over a period of time, we'll be able to help these people get back on their feet and get started again.”

Schauf said individuals and other horsemen's groups around the country have sent in donations. The Iowa Quarter Horse Racing Association wrote a check for $5,000.

“The outpouring of support is just overwhelming,” said Schauf.

Other groups, like the Oklahoma Thoroughbred Retirement Program (OTRP), are focusing primarily on the horses themselves. According to the latest estimate, more than 150 horses have died. Some perished in the storm; others that were badly injured beyond help had to be euthanized. Still others were found alive and require medical care.

In ordinary circumstances, the OTRP takes Thoroughbreds off the track, retrains them for other careers, and adopts them out. This week, chairman Chris Kirk and his team have supported a new mission: The search for lost horses, identification (with assistance from Red Earth Feed & Tack), and fundraising for the clinics and farms that have offered to care for the surviving animals.

Volunteers assisted by offering trailers to help load surviving horses
Volunteers assisted by offering trailers to help load surviving horses

“The vet clinics have taken on a bunch of the horses. They're needing feed and they're needing more supplies. They've been overwhelmed,” Kirk said. “I've got volunteers going to the various places where the horses have been taken and trying to identify them, either through markings or tattoo numbers, if they happen to have one.”

Kirk said all of the horses that were participating in the OTRP before the storm are safe. And there have been other positive developments. An unraced 3-year-old Thoroughbred filly was discovered alive under the rubble of a collapsed barn at Celestial Acres, with only a few lacerations on her leg.

“Her name is Sasha's Image,” Kirk said. “She was preparing to go into training. Her owner was one of the ones who lost everything. She's being cared for.”

But efforts to rescue and triage injured horses have been complicated by the lack of a disaster plan for large animals and livestock, said Debby Shauf of the OQHRA. Shauf, who lost her home and all her horses in the 1999 Moore tornado, said it was too difficult following Monday's storm to get clearance for qualified veterinarians to reach horses in distress.

“We're all very frustrated by the fact that there wasn't much of a plan for how to deal with a disaster like this and there wasn't any coordination of that, and if I don't do anything else, out of this is going to come a plan in Oklahoma.”

Shauf said she's already been in touch with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, and the agency told her it was anxious to help develop a plan going forward.

Remington Park's Scott Wells said the track – and all large animal operations – should learn from this week's tornado and put in place emergency procedures.

“It's really caused us to refocus our efforts on how we would handle anything, should such a disaster occur here.”

For those wishing to contribute to the efforts in Oklahoma, here are some of the options for donating:

Oklahoma Thoroughbred Retirement Program

Donate here or send to:

OTRP
P.O. Box 96
Blanchard, OK 73010 (Note for tornado relief)

Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association

Via Paypal

Checks should be made payable to either OQHRA Benevolence Fund or TRAO Benevolence Fund and put 2013 Tornado on the memo line:

OQHRA
P.O. Box 2907
Edmond OK 73083
(405) 216-0440

Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma
2620 NW Expressway; Suite A
Oklahoma City, OK 73112
(405) 427-8753

Canterbury Park in Minnesota has established a fund for trainer Randy Weidner, who lost his stable of a dozen horses plus his truck, trailer, tack, records and computer.

Checks can be written to:
“Randall Weidner Catastrophe Trust”
Wells Fargo
380 S. Marschall Rd.
Shakopee, MN 55379

Tornado - God Bless OK sign

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