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Help for Puerto Rico Horses
 By Winniefield Park   •   25th Oct 2017   •   746 views   •   0 comments


According to the 2012 USDA census, there are approximately 1200 horse farms and 10,000 horses on the Island of Puerto Rico and it’s neighboring island communities. Like every other industry in the territory, the horse industry has been devastated by the effects of Hurricane Maria. A very short time after the horse community in Puerto Rico sent aid to other islands affected by earlier hurricanes, they found themselves struggling to keep humans and horses cared for.

Those looking after stables tried their best to prepare for the coming hurricane. This included cleaning up any debris that might be a danger if picked up by the wind and making sure shelters were secure. At the Hipódromo Camarero stabling, which is located about thirty minutes out of San Juan, racehorses, who normally receive large rations of grain had their grain reduced and substituted with more hay so they wouldn’t suffer from excess energy and stomach problems while they waited in their stalls for the storm to pass.

This stabling, in particular, was built to withstand hurricane force wind. Unfortunately, the viciousness of Hurricane Maria ripped up ninety percent of the backstretch roof and caused damage to the grounds that will take some time to repair and clean up. The grandstand, winner’s circle, and other facilities are destroyed. Hipódromo Camarero is a busy race track. It hosts eight races a day, five days a week. Of course, racing is suspended until further notice and there are other priorities in the territory at this point.

In other parts of the territory, hurricane preparations were a little different. Smaller stables freed their horses, trusting in their instincts to see them safely through the storm. The manager of the Potrero Los Llanos Inc, Stud Farm & Stallions felt the horses would be safer and could graze to survive. The few horses that were left stabled were those they felt would be a danger to other horses, or to the public. The horses kept in the stables were fed and provided with water supplied thanks to a generator run pump for the duration of the storm.

There are several stables offering trail rides to tourists and private stables in Puerto Rico. Not only are facilities damaged, they will continue to struggle as the territory’s agricultural base has been thrown into disarray by the hurricane. Estimates suggest that it will take at least two years to put things back together and allow the soil to recover.

Feral Paso Fino horses of the island community of Vieques have been a tourist attraction, but their existence has changed since the hurricane has destroyed their habitat. The horrific winds and torrential rains have stripped vegetation of its leaves and mud slides and erosion have changed the topography of their home. This is forcing the horses to move to other areas, sometimes putting them in dangerous situations along the few usable roads and into more populated areas. Mudslides, flooding, and debris have taken their toll. There are yet no estimates of how many of the approximately 2000 horses have already died. Not only is this a tragedy in itself, but decaying dead animals can cause the spread of disease and provide an overabundance of food for unwanted predators.

For those who relied even partly on tourism for their income, it will be some time before their facilities are rebuilt, some of their horses found and returned to working condition, and the tourists themselves inclined to return.

The horse community in the U.S. is lending a hand in helping out one of its own. Shipments of hay and other supplies have been sent. The difficulty, however, is that the welfare of humans takes priority, and transport has been difficult to arrange. For those who would like to help, the AAEP suggests that because of the difficulty of getting supply transport to the area, financial donations are the best way to help out. AAEP has a list of organizations that are taking either financial donations or supplies in support of the Puerto Rico horse community: Hurricane Relief.
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