Hurricane Irma, The Equine Practice Inc

An African Breeze

A week ago horse owners in Florida were living with their decision about the upcoming weather. A few weeks before that our brethren in Texas were living with their decisions. In both cases, a gentle wind coming off the desert of Africa left for a journey across the Atlantic Ocean where the conditions this year were ripe for hurricane development. The 8th wind to develop was named Harvey, the 9th was named Irma and both brought devastation.

I know this blog reaches many people who will never know the anxiety the horse owners living in the “cone of uncertainty” feel a week before these storms, but it wrecks the psyche long before the winds wreck the farm. There are two phases. The first is not knowing the future. What if we get a direct hit? What if it is a category 4 or 5? Where should I evacuate to? Can I get all the animals out? The second phase is where most of us are right now. It has one of two parts. Either we are facing the destruction of our lives as we once knew it or we are grateful that we were spared but guilty too knowing that others were not.

A week ago I worked with my wife applying the finishing touches to our hurricane preparedness and sat in the beautiful but slightly breezy weather in our barn. Waiting is the hardest part. Melissa had used two large horse trailers to evacuate her horses, dogs, cats, bird, chickens, pigs and cattle. She is returning home to a roof torn with holes that let water into her house. But she and her crew are safe because of her decision to evacuate. We stayed and had some fence damaged and one tree lost with only 3 days without electricity. Melissa still has no power a week later.  The distance between our homes is about 25 miles and that is the difference between the forces of a hurricane.

After removing the shutters from the doors and windows, I drove north on Interstate 95. There was wind destruction seen along the interstate as downed trees as far north as Georgia. There was no fuel for my truck available until I reached Midway Georgia about 400 miles from my home. People at my favorite Starbucks north of Jacksonville, 4 hours from my house, packed the place as if it was a holiday while the rest of the mall was a ghost town. Their eyes were shallow and smiles were absent as if in shock. A whole county in Georgia was closed as every exit on 95 was guarded by armed state troopers and National Guardsmen using their cruisers and military vehicles to block the path.  The southbound lane of 95 was a crawling parking lot from Jacksonville to North Carolina.

The hurricane zombies are who we are until life becomes normal again. However we are all fully aware that it was our turn now but it will be someone else’s turn in the future. But hurricanes are unique because of the time we are given to think about “what if.” Winter snow and ice storms, volcano eruptions, tsunamis, lightening strikes, tornadoes and other explosive destructive forces don’t allow us to think “what if?” It is the thinking and worrying that affects more than what you see on the evening news or front page of the paper and internet. It is the disruption of goods and services, the freedom to travel and the loss of energy to drive the water pump that subtly disturbs the majority of people. But most importantly for many people is the gentle feeling of guilt when we realize we were spared from the worst of the hurricane but others were not. This part is never told on the news because we don’t really want to talk about it.

The truth is that every person within the path of possible hurricane travel plus their families living in other parts of the globe pray that the hurricane won’t hit them directly. But we also know that if it misses us, it will hit someone else. Katrina hit Miami doing little damage and we in Florida all cheered because we had dodged the big one. Had it tracked further north history would have been different. And Wilma passed below the keys into the Gulf of Mexico causing us all to cheer again until it intensified, made a 180 degree turn and came back to hit us moving from west to east as an almost Cat 4 hurricane.

The season for hurricanes ends sometime in November and Florida will again be a paradise. For now, the zombie looks are fading and life continues as most of you will forget the destruction the winds and high water brought to many in this country. The news media will make sure of this as they turn their attention to some other drama that sells their services of telling a story. However, horse people are still trying to cope with their disrupted lives in ways most of us cannot imagine. To this I want to give you some places where you might consider sending some of your money to support horse owners and their horses. These are trusted places for horses where your money won’t get lost.

American Association of Equine Practitioners Foundation Equine Disaster Relief Fund
If you wish to offer assistance with supplies or other resources, please email Keith Kleine at and you will be contacted with further instructions.

United States Equestrian Federation Equine Disaster Relief Fund

Formed to help ensure the safety and well-being of horses during trying times, this organization aids horses across all breeds in disaster-related situations.

Florida Veterinary Medical Association
Working on the ground with other organizations, the FVMA Foundation also is collecting tax-deductible donations to fund much-needed veterinary care, rescue and relief work in storm-ravaged parts of the state.

Texas Veterinary Medical Association
Same mission as in Florida.

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