The following is a field report and update from my colleague Claire Koss responding to the floods in Colorado. --SW
It was a beautiful day: blue sky, mid 70’s, Colorado Rockies lining the horizon. It was hard to imagine that a week earlier floods ravaged nearby areas, leaving damage spanning 2,000 square miles, but the Northern Colorado community was out and in good spirits for a horse show at Gib’s Performance Horses.
The owner of this facility has generously allowed Colorado Horsecare Foodbank (CHF) to set up their disaster relief hay distribution site on their property. Juliana, founder and chairwoman of CHF, and I were arranging for the next semi-truck to deliver hay, when a young girl riding a horse walked by us.
The girl was beaming with excitement while her parents led the horse. “I started riding that young…” Juliana said, getting a bit choked up. “That is why I do what I do.” Horses are not a luxury out in rural Colorado. They are an intricate part of everyday life, from early morning feedings to providing companionship after a long day, these horses mean everything to these communities.
According to a 2005 survey conducted by the American Horse Council Foundation, there are over 255,000 horses in the state of Colorado. When the floods hit two weeks ago, most hay was ruined within the first 24-hours and the rain continued for six days straight. Many owners lost thousands of dollars’ worth of hay, which is not covered by flood insurance.
Colorado Horsecare Foodbank’s mission is to keep families and their horses together during times of financial hardships, medical problems, or natural disasters by providing hay for horses and other livestock. CHF was a major asset to the community when the Black Forest Fires occurred earlier this summer, so when the floods hit, Juliana knew what she had to do.
Within a few days, CHF was able to find a central location for a hay-distribution site with easy access for flood victims; however she was going to need a lot more hay.
I have spent the last five days with Juliana and CHF’s volunteers making sure that they do not have to turn away any horse in need. It is because of your generous donations IFAW was able to help CHF purchase two semi-trucks holding 40 tons of hay.
Since the floods, CHF has been able to feed over 370 horses and over 100 other livestock animals by distributing over 500 bales of hay and grain! These numbers continue to increase as CHF and their volunteers work tirelessly to assure that families do not need to make the difficult decision to surrender their horse because of not being able feed them.
One woman, from Loveland, CO, picked up hay for her 3 horses and shared with me some pictures she took from her cell phone. At its highest point, 6-feet of water ran through her property, leaving debris and silt all over.
She was fortunate enough to evacuate her horses to family members in a nearby town, however does not expect her land to be back to normal until spring of 2014. This woman was utterly grateful that CHF is able to help her feed her horses while she tries to return to a sense of normalcy.
My time spent with the CHF has been a whirlwind learning about the different types of hay (who knew there were so many!), hearing some of the stories from those who were affected by the floods, and understanding how much these horses mean to the comminutes in Colorado.
IFAW’s Disaster Response program and Colorado Horsecare Foodbank share a similar mission to keep owners with their animals during disasters, and it is because of your generous donations we are able to make this possible.