Volunteers And Donors Combine Forces To Help Hundreds Of Horses Displaced By California Wildfire

Amanda Lee MyersAP Images

Horses stabled on at least two Southern California properties lost their lives this week as fast-moving flames hindered efforts to evacuate the animals. The first tragedy struck during the early morning hours on Tuesday, December 5 when the Creek fire hit Rancho Padilla in Sylmar, California. This ranch was home to more than 60 horses, 29 of which perished in the flames. This was followed two days later in Bonsall by the death of approximately 25 of the 500 racehorses housed at the San Luis Rey Downs training center.

Evacuation and Recovery Efforts

Footage shot at San Luis Rey Downs showcased people attempting to save as many horses as possible by breaking down a fence. Several horses fled as a result, and some still haven’t been recovered yet. Those that were successfully evacuated by their owners or helpful bystanders have been granted a place to stay at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. This includes horses that were displaced from smaller facilities such as local ranches.

In total, Del Mar expects to house as many as 800 horses. The Thoroughbred Club has also received special permission to temporarily operate as a training center for the racehorses.

Fundraising Efforts

Breeders’ Cup reported on Twitter that 200 volunteers were at Del Mar by early Friday morning. The multi-use facility has 1,500 stalls, with up to 850 of them currently in use. Del Mar is currently accepting donations of much-needed supplies such as shavings, gloves, alfalfa, blankets, halters, apples, carrots, lead ropes, clips and hooks. Any excess supplies will be donated to other local horse boarding facilities.

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A massive outpouring of financial support has also come in via a GoFundMe fundraiser. The quickly growing campaign passed $462,000 in donations within 24 hours.

Survivors: Injuries, Comas and More

Although the vast majority of horses caught up in the recent California wildfires survived, some of them sustained burn injuries. People who attempted to reach the horses in time were also in grave danger, and at least one of them suffered such extensive injuries that she’s currently in a medically-induced coma.

Other surviving horses may still be wandering the area. Anyone who locates an unknown horse, or anyone who can’t find theirs, is urged to submit identifying information to industry publication TDN. Equiride has also stepped up with an offer of free transportation for any horse that needs a ride to Bel Mar.

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This is anticipated to be a long-term recovery process for the horses and their owners. Bel Mar might get overloaded with supplies this weekend, but the need for financial contributions, volunteers and future supplies will continue for several months. It’s unknown at this time what type of rebuilding plans are in place for San Luis Rey Downs, but it’s likely that the horses displaced by the California wildfires won’t be able to go home anytime in the near future.