Hurricane Irma is said to be the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. The Category 5 hurricane produced gusts of up to 70 mph in Puerto Rico on Wednesday night and is predicted to move just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday. The hurricane will likely hit Florida by the weekend.
Horse owners in Florida have already begun to evacuate their horses ahead of Irma’s landfall in the state. Two famous equestrian venues, the Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) in Lexington, and North Carolina’s Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), have opened their stabling to evacuees.
“We had one shipment come in around 7 a.m. this morning,” said Molly Oakman, director of Equestrian Operations at the TIEC, in an interview with WLOS on Wednesday. She added that they predict another 600 horses would arrive over the next two days.
The TIEC has more than 1,000 stalls on the property with some available at a discounted rate. They may put up temporary stabling in the outdoor arenas. There is also lodging and RV parking available on-site. Horses are required to have current Coggins, EHV-1 and EHV-4 vaccinations and a health certificate. Call ahead to confirm stall availability: (828) 863-1005.
Depending on the path, Irma could hit the Carolinas early next week, though likely in a weakened state. Tryon’s location in the western part of the state, away from the coast, makes it a relatively safe location.
Farther inland, the Kentucky Horse Park is offering stabling in Lexington on a first-come, first-serve basis for $20 per night. Horses are required to have a negative Coggins. The KHP has approximately 200 stalls available.
“Although we have limited capacity, it’s important for us to help however we can,” said KHP Executive Director Laura Prewitt.
To reserve stalls, contact Sheila Forbes: (859) 259-4290 or at Sheila.Forbes@ky.gov.
Horse and farm owners in the southeast region have put together a public Google Doc that lists smaller facilities that have space to temporarily house horses and livestock that have been evacuated from Irma’s path. Tap here to access the document.
Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky. www.lesliepotterphoto.com