R.T. Fitch Nominated for National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board

“It is my honor to announce that Equine Welfare Alliance and ReinFree.org have nominated R.T. Fitch for the Public Interest opening on the National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board.”    – Debbie Coffey

Jerry Finch (Habitat for Horses), R.T. Fitch (Wild Horse Freedom Federation), with Rep. Jim Moran (U.S. Congress) discussing issues in the halls of Congress

Jerry Finch (Habitat for Horses), R.T. Fitch (Wild Horse Freedom Federation), with Rep. Jim Moran (U.S. Congress) discussing issues in the halls of Congress

R.T. has been a true leader in the fight to save the wild horses, and has done much, including:

  • rescued abused horses in Brazil (including bringing one back to the U.S.) 1997 – 2000
  • rescued, rehabilitated, fostered and placed many equines through Habitat for Horses  2001 – present
  • Board of Directors Lone Star Equine Rescue/Habitat for Horses 2001 – present
  • worked directly with the former Governor of Louisiana in rescuing equines after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as featured in the book “Horses of the Storm
  • attended multiple BLM wild horse roundups
  • attended and has spoken at multiple BLM National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board meetings
  • organized and has spoken at Press Conferences opposite multiple BLM National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board meetings
  • acted as a citizen lobbyist on issues of horse slaughter in Washington D.C. on many occasions
  • has  been endorsed to the President by members of Congress on behalf of equine welfare
  • co-founded and sits as President of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
  • author of the acclaimed book “Straight from the Horse’s Heart
  • author of multiple equine related articles in Horseback and True Cowboy magazines
  • traveled to Outer Mongolia to research and observe the re-introduction techniques of the true wild horse, “Takhi” – 2012
  • has been the Master of Ceremonies for the International Equine Conference
  • was a guest speaker at the recent Equine Advocates Equine Conference
  • will be a guest speaker at the upcoming International Equine Conference
  • Author of many equine related article on the “Straight from the Horse’s Heart Blog,” which has been running for over 4 years and has had 2.5 million hits
  • cares for and attends to 5 rescued/adopted horses on personal property  2001 – present

And last, but by no means least, R.T. has shared his courage, his wit and his recipe for cowboy iced tea with all of us.  Thank you for your dedication and hard work, R.T.  We’re proud of you and we hope you will be appointed to this Advisory Board.   –  Debbie Coffey

The Winds of Destruction

Excerpt from the book Straight from the Horse’s Heart by R.T. Fitch

For all the Souls that await the arrival of Isaac

“Exactly seven years ago this day, I penned these jumbled sentences, below, in an effort to make sense of the feelings that both Terry, myself and our horses felt as Hurricane Katrina was bearing down upon our small Louisiana farm.  Today Terry and the herd are safe in Texas, where we currently reside, and it appears out of harms way, but the same is not true for our friends along the northern gulf coast of the mighty USA.  So from half way around the world I extend a virtual hand to those who are sharing the same feelings and asking the exact same questions we struggled with over a half a decade ago; truly, may the ‘Force of the Horse®’ be with you” ~ R.T.


The horses have been turned loose in the pasture, the hanging plants have been secured, the wind chimes are down, and all equipment is securely stowed.

Now, all that is left to do is wait; wait for the storm to do what it will do.

Churning viciously out in the Gulf of Mexico is a monster the size of three states – a furious beast that breathes rain, hail, and destruction at the rate of over 165 miles per hour.  It’s the stuff that science fiction movies are made of.  We wait; for what, we do not know.

We could have left; we had time.  In fact, I tried to persuade my bride to depart with her cat yesterday morning, but she would not leave me and the rest of our family.  She seems to feel that she needs to be with us.  I, however, feel otherwise.  We recently bought a four-horse slant load trailer just for this purpose.  Now that we have five horses sharing our lives with us, we opted to stay and await our destiny.

This is not new to me.  A Florida resident for several decades, I have been through my fair share of hurricanes.  In fact, we are in better shape now as Laughing Horse Farm is hooked up to a new, state-of-the-art generator that will keep us in power long after those who have lost theirs are sweltering in the heat.  All is well and good; that is, if anything is still left standing.

Why are we here; what is running through the minds of the horses?  They know that something is wrong; they smell it, they feel it.  Why are we here?  Why do we live with the thought of total destruction of all material goods and the potential loss of life in the back of our minds?  What made us stay?

The outer rain bands of the storm are swirling violently over our heads and the winds are picking up.  As the sun sets, it casts an eerie pall over the landscape; its fractured light bounces off from the massive thunderstorms.  There is a feeling of impending doom in the air; you could cut it with a knife.  The horses are running anxiously in the pasture while the cows are crying out from behind.  They know.  Why are we here?  What will come?  We have lost control and submit.  We pray for those souls that may soon depart.  We are only mortal and cannot change what is certain destiny.  We are diminished by the size and the immensity of what looms over our heads.  We are humbled by the realization that we are not supreme in any way shape or form.  We only do what we can.

Why are we here?

Horse Owners Urged to Prepare for Active Wildfire Season

story by Pat Raia as it appears in The Horse

Horse Owners should Plan NOW for Emergencies

While firefighters work to contain a massive wildfire in New Mexico, the blaze has forced few horse evacuations, according to agricultural authorities in that state. But national authorities believe 2012 could see an increase in wildfire frequency and have cautioned horse owners to prepare for fires before they occur.

On May 16, wildfires erupted in the Gila National Forest near Glenwood. By June 1, the blaze had burned 216,650 acres and was just 10% contained. New Mexico Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Katie Goetz said that despite the size of the fire, the village of Mogollon was the only town evacuated so far.

“It’s a very small village of only about 15 or 20 people, and the one family that did have a horse was able to relocated to a family member’s property out of the fire zone,” Goetz said.

A total of 40 horses residing in pastures on two separate ranches were also safely transported to locations outside the fire zone, Goetz said.

The New Mexico blaze is indicative of the active wildfire season predicted by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), an organization that works with state and local agencies to establish wildfire preparedness plans. Thanks to dry conditions and warm temperatures, the agency predicts services an above normal significant wildfire potential in western and southwestern regions through September. Some fires in those regions could necessitate human and animal evacuation, said NIFC spokeswoman Robyn Broyles.

“Mandatory evacuation and other wildfire-connected orders are issued by local law enforcement departments,” Broyles said. “So first people should know who to talk to and who to get news from about evacuations, then they need to know where they’re going to go in case of evacuation and what they’re going to do with their livestock.”

These “know-before-you-go” plans should include identifying specific routes out of the fire zone and making advance arrangements to place evacuated horses with friends, family members, or others whose properties are located well away from the fire.

Owners who cannot evacuate their animals should prepare for them to take “shelter in place,” according to firefighter Gina Gonzales, of the Loveland Fire Rescue in Loveland, Colo., and an assistant instructor for The Large Animal Emergency Rescue Inc.

Gonzales advises owners to stock enough food and water to accommodate their horses for five to seven days. She also recommends that owners relocate horses from barns to paddocks, even if barns are equipped with sprinkler systems. In the event horses become separated from their properties, owners should use indelible marker to write contact information on their horses’ hooves or on duct tape placed on the horse’s neck. Owners who evacuate should take with them a packet containing information about their horse, including photographs. Finally, she recommends owners place signs on their fences advising firefighters and other local authorities that animals remain on the property.

For an inspiring and gripping first-hand account of how the Louisiana State University‘s Equine Rescue Team and Habitat for Horses saved hundreds of horses and other animals following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, read Horses of the Storm and Straight from the Horse’s Heart

Finally, Broyles recommends that owners who reside in wildfire prone areas create “defensible spaces” around their properties. Defensible spaces are 100-foot perimeters that surround bans, paddocks, homes and other structures to discourage fire from advancing through the property. These spaces are devoid of overgrown brush, flammable chemicals, or trees that could fuel cinders emanating from wildfires. Livestock left on the property should be placed within this defensible space.

Owners who have created defensible spaces on their properties should also maintain these spaces, Broyles said.

“Landscaping doesn’t always take defensible spaces into account, but trees and other plants that grow have to be trimmed,” she said.

Slideshow of Jerry Finch, president of Habitat for Horses and R.T. Fitch, now president of Wild Horse Freedom Federation working with LSU Vet School to save horses after hurricanes Katrina and Rita ~ photos by Terry Fitch

Wildfires: When the Evacuation of Your Equines is NOT an Option

article by Pat Raia from the pages of The Horse

Timely Tips to Protect the Lives of your Horses, Burros and Mules

As most of you know my wife Terry, co-founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation, is sheltering evacuated horses and donkeys at our farm in Magnolia, Texas where the fire is burning only a few miles away.  Likewise, she stands at the ready to help our Director of Wild Burro Affairs, Marjorie Farabee, who is on evacuation standby with her dozens and dozens of donkeys, mules and burros…so this story and information strikes very close to our heart.  We hope that you will find it of interest, also.” ~ R.T.

photo courtesy of KHOU News, Houston

Thanks to record summer temperatures and persistent drought, several wildfires have flared in Texas this year, according to information contained on the Texas Forest Service website. Since Sept. 1 the Texas Forest Service has responded to 181 fires covering a total of 118,413 acres. On Sept. 5 the agency responded to 22 new fires affecting 7,544 acres, including 10 new large fires, according to the website. As of Sept. 6, firefighters continued the struggle to control the blazes.

Throughout the Labor Day weekend, Texas horse owners used Facebook and other Internet avenues to share news about available resources including transportation, feed, and shelter beyond the fire zone. But veteran firefighter Gina Gonzales, of the Loveland Fire Rescue in Loveland, Colo., and an assistant instructor for The Large Animal Emergency Rescue Inc. (TLAER), said evacuation is not an option for some owners. When that’s the case, owners should take these “shelter in place” steps before the fire advances:

  • Stock water: Fill every available bucket, trough, and other container with enough water to accommodate animals for between five and seven days.
  • Stock feed: Horses sheltered in place should have enough feed to accommodate them for between five and seven days.
  • Gather hand tools: Have metal shovels and heavy-duty metal rakes on hand to extinguish cinders that might fall onto your property. “Wind can carry cinders as far as a quarter mile,” Gonzales said. “Hand tools are the best way to extinguish them.”
  • Gather equine identification information: Owners will need definitive identification to reclaim animals displaced during a wildfire event or other disaster from animal control or welfare authorities.
  • Mark your animals: Animals should also be marked with the owner’s name and contact information. Gonzales recommends owners use indelible markers to write this information on horses’ hooves, or on duct tape placed on the horses’ neck or buttocks.
  • Mark your property: Place placards on property fence gates informing firefighters that animals are being sheltered in place there. Owners should also include their names and contact information.
  • Remove horses from barns: Horses should be relocated from barns even if those structures are equipped with sprinkler systems. Paddocks or metal-construction areas provide safer shelter. Close up the barn to prevent scared horses from running back inside and becoming trapped.
  • Be alert to signs of smoke inhalation: Along with risk of lacerations and other injuries, horses sheltered in place run the risk of smoke inhalation. Owners should be able to recognize signs that their horses have inhaled smoke. “If you see soot around your horse’s eyes or coming out of its nose, that horse has been breathing smoke,” Gonzales said.

Keith Taraba, DVM, of the Northeast Texas Equine Services in Pittsburg, said risk of smoke inhalation could last up to 30 days after fires have been extinguished. Left untreated, smoke inhalation can have long-term consequences including lung cancer in horses. Veterinarians treat smoke inhalation with antibiotics, as well as drugs that dilate airways and steroid drugs that reduce tissue inflammation.

“If owners find their horses coughing, sneezing, or breathing more heavily than usual, they should seek treatment as soon as possible,” Taraba said.

For an inspiring and gripping first-hand account of how the Louisiana State University‘s Equine Rescue Team saved hundreds of horses and other animals following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, read Horses of the Storm. ~ you will read of the efforts of Habitat for Horses and the role that Terry Fitch played in the rescue operations.”

Finally, Gonzales recommends that owners residing in wildfire-prone areas reduce fire-damage risks by creating so-called “defensible spaces” around their properties.

Defensible spaces are 100-foot perimeters that surround barns, paddocks, homes, and other structures. These spaces are devoid of overgrown brush, flammable chemicals, or trees that could fuel cinders emanating from wildfires.

“If you have a defensible space, be sure your horses are placed within it if you have to shelter in place,” Gonzales said.

Wild Horse Freedom Federation’s Lady Leaders Know No Rest

by R.T. Fitch ~ Author and President of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Texas Wild Fires Lick at WHFF’s Founding Farm

Magnolia Texas Wild Fire ~ photo courtesy of KHOU

From months on the range, weeks on keyboards or days in court the Board of Directors of Wild Horse Freedom Federation can now add equine wild fire evacuation to their list of horse related rescue operations.

Today my iPhone lit up with a text from Jerry Finch, President of Habitat from Horses:

“You at home”, Jerry wrote.
“Nope”, I replied, “I am thirteen hours ahead of you in China.”
“Drat” (or something like that) he replied, “The wild fires are now in Magnolia and we have horses to save.”
I tried to steady my fingers as I typed:
“Jerry, we LIVE in the middle of the woods in Magonlia and Terry is there alone with the horses, remember?”
“SHOT” came back from him or something like that.
I immediatly fired up Skype on the trusty iPhone and could see that Terry was on her computer, central time in Texas was about 2100 hrs.  She answered with a terse: “What?”
“You alright”, I screamed.
“R.T. they are evacuating 8,000 people and I have horses to move.” she hollered back at me.
I sucked air and asked, “Our horses, are you attempting to evacuate?  Do you have to move our horses?”
The call dropped.
My heart sank as I tried to call back and battle my way through the great Chinese firewall, I failed.  Tried another application and it too tanked.  I texted and got no response so I turned back to Jerry and wrote,
“Call Terry!!!!”

Fire from Downtown Magnolia ~ photo courtesy of KHOU

Suddenly I hated where I was and felt myself slipping into a very dark place.  It is essential that I travel to earn the funds that fuel the fire of our equine advocacy but in a zealous urge to progress and proceed I now found myself days away from getting home and, once again, of no use to help Terry.

Further fueling my decent into the quicksand of fear and frustration was the knowledge that our farm sits in the middle 132 acres of, now, tinder dry woodlands which is then surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of like foliage.  A veritable drought driven bomb about to go off.  I was frantic.
The minutes ticked by and turned into hours as I fretted and fussed with an ever increasing feeling of helpless and despair.  My mind told me that Terry was capable and that we have a strong network of equine friends.  Hell, Terry was on hand with Jerry Finch and myself when Habitat for Horses was the primary equine rescue operation after Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, in fact, she did such a fine job she was asked by LSU and the Governor of Louisiana‘s office to oversee and manage the entire animal rescue effort, backed by HfH, after Hurricane Rita hit.  So she knows her stuff…but where was she, what was going on?
Finally, well after midnight Texas time a quick email dashed across my computer screen.
“I am back, all is well.  We have four equine refugees on the property with their other 2 brothers next door with three Corgis and the human parents to them all.  They are safe…I am going to bed, I am beat but let’s see what the morning brings.”
I was dumbfounded.  Here I was fretting about the lithe little woman’s safety and she had gone out in the dark, way back into the woods where I store our goose-neck trailer out sight and hooked it up to the Dodge Dually to go save horses.  I’ll be dammed. 
Between the strength of our Laura Leigh and my wife Terry, there is no wonder that I don’t have a single hair left on my stallion rump…they just keep going and going and going and going and going without ever changing batteries.  I am awestruck.
So hang tight, my friends, let’s see what daylight brings but one thing is for certain; with Terry, Laura and Marjorie holding the reins of WFHH, we are going to kick some serious butt.
Film at 10.

Habitat for Horses Hollers for Hurricane Helpers

Hitchcock, Texas based Habitat for Horses (HfH) is gearing up for another hurricane season along the Gulf Coast.

Volunteers leading horses trapped in Katrina flooded pastures to safety

The members and leadership of HfH cut their Hurricane responding teeth on back to back hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and then they were dealt a smack on punch from hurricane Ike in 2008.  One of the few Equine Rescue organizations in the country to be equipped and experienced in rescuing horses stranded, trapped and/or injured after hurricanes HfH is asking for volunteers to assist during the current season as the experts promise it to be a hot one.

Whether you have the ability to respond in person or can man a phone, regardless of where you are, please contact Lauri Barr at lbarr@habitatforhorses.org for additional information and applications.  This is the real deal, hands on sort of rescue where you can really make a difference in saving a horse’s life.

HfH volunteer, Terry Fitch, directing equine rescue operations after Rita

Free online certification courses are available for volunteers.

Habitat for Horses is one of the largest equine protection organizations in the country, with supporters in every state and around the world.  While our main facilities are in Texas, we have foster homes and adopted horses throughout the United States. With hundreds of active volunteers, Habitat for Horses maintains an extensive network of foster homes that devote much of their lives to the rehabilitation and retraining of the equine that come through our gates.”

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