by Pat Raia
Retired Thoroughbred racehorse Robyn Dancer was in his stall at Shady Lane Farm in Opelousas, La., when Hurricane Gustav swept through Sept 1. Wind from the hurricane ripped the roof off the stallion’s stall and demolished the tack room beside it, but Robyn Dancer came through the storm without injury, as did the more than 50 other horses and foals on the farm.
“There’s a lot of flooding, but the horses are doing well,” said Frank Rudis, brother of Shady Lane Farm owner Kim Rudis. “It’s a nice outcome of a bad situation.”
The story is largely the same across Louisiana, according to Sam Irwin, press secretary for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
Livestock evaluation teams fanned out across the state Sept. 2, checking in with horse owners to learn how their animals weathered the storm. Despite power outages, wind damage, and flooding, they reported that horses are faring well.
Evaluation teams with the United States Department of Agriculture filed similar reports, spokesperson Angela Harless said. “We have had no reports of endangered horses,” she said.
The findings are in sharp contrast to what evaluation teams reported following Hurricane Katrina three years ago, when many horse owners were unprepared for that storm’s torrential rains, high winds, and widespread flooding. This time, most owners moved their horses to higher ground and stocked up on feed and other supplies well in advance of Gustav’s arrival.
“The Gulf Coast is hurricane alley,” Irwin said. “Horse people know what they have to do, and they did it.”
But he warned horse owners to keep their storm-preparedness plans handy. The storms Hanna, Ike, and Josephine are gaining hurricane strength in the Caribbean.
“The first preparation should be to pray those storms don’t come through,” Irwin said.