Video Report: Equine Family and Livelihood Lost in Oklahoma Tornado


“I just wailed and wailed over them. They were like my kids…”

BARTOW COUNTY, GA (CBS ATLANTA) -Things just aren’t right at Jon Ellis’ stables.

“Now there is no one in here to take care of,” Ellis said.

Ellis and his wife Jennifer Short raised and trained eight race horses at their Bartow County horse farm. But seven of them were with Ellis in Oklahoma last month when a tornado ripped through the area.

“I was just praying as I ran, praying that it would miss our barn and it just went right down the middle of our barn,” Ellis said.

Ellis was on his way back to the barn when the tornado hit. He said he’ll never forget what he saw when he got back.

“Just dead horses laying everywhere. The most awful deaths you can imagine, I mean it wasn’t like walking in a pasture and finding one died of old age, they died horrific deaths,” said Ellis.

More than 100 horses died that day. Ellis and Short said it was like losing a family member.

“I just wailed and wailed over them. They were like my kids, and one was a 2-year-old baby, and I had bottle fed her from birth every two hours. And I never missed a beat for three months, every two hours,” Ellis said.

Ellis said insurance will cover the lost trailers, saddles and other gear, but with no insurance on the horses, the couple faces the daunting task of starting over just weeks before their first child is born.

“It’s a tough time especially with the baby coming, so we are very hopeful somehow it all comes together,” said Short.

Ellis and Short said they draw strength from Derbydaydelight. She is the one horse that didn’t make the trip to Oklahoma.

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Mini Horses En Route to Oklahoma to Offer Therapy to Tornado Victims

Source: Marjorie Nunez of the Independent Florida Alligator

“When you’re sick, to see a real horse — it’s a great thing”

Picture courtesy of Gentle Carousel Therapy Horses

Just one week after experiencing devastating loss, survivors of the Oklahoma tornado will be able to take comfort in special visitors from Gainesville: three miniature therapy horses.

The horses of Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, a volunteer-based nonprofit charity, began their journey to Moore, Okla., in a truck and horse trailer.

 The group will be in Oklahoma for about a week, said Debbie Garcia-Bengochea, the education director of Gentle Carousel.

The organization was not planning to visit Oklahoma, she said, but less than two weeks after a group of horses returned from visiting Newtown, Conn., calls came pouring in from families, government officials and first responders in Oklahoma.

After the Oklahoma community proposed a therapy plan that would meet its needs, Gentle Carousel decided to make the trip. But Garcia-Bengochea said the team will also stay flexible to meet needs as they arise.

“Even though they’re setting up particular things for us, it’s all pretty fluid,” Garcia-Bengochea said.

The horses will visit a makeshift shelter set up in a college gym to interact with survivors, she said.

On trips, Garcia-Bengochea said, the horses typically dress up to visit families, sporting sparkles in their manes and tails.

She said she expects the horses’ visit to Oklahoma to help the healing process for individuals in the community.

One time, a child with a brain tumor asked to see a horse.

When the horse came into the child’s room, the child said, “She can see inside my soul.”

Gentle Carousel started about 15 years ago, originally working with severely abused children.

The charity has been mentioned in a Broadway show by Hugh Jackman, featured by CNN, USA Today and Time magazine, which named therapy horse Magic one of history’s top 10 most heroic animals.

Ocala, Lake City and Gainesville are home for the horses when the charity is not traveling.

In February, they paired up with UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital, said Andrea Gilbert, a Shands Rehab occupational therapist who set up the connection.

The partnership started on Valentine’s Day, and the horses’ first visit to the hospital was so successful it became a weekly occurrence, Gilbert said.

During their visits, Gilbert said, the horses help patients, and the patients help the horses.

“There’s a correlation between what our patients are going through and what the baby horses are going through,” Gilbert said.

While extensive planning goes into coordinating the horses’ long trips, Garcia-Bengochea said she finds the process well worth the effort.

“When you’re sick, to see a real horse — it’s a great thing,” she said.

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Oklahoma Tornado Killed at Least 150 horses

Source: By Mary Rampellini of the Daily Racing Form

“We’ve counted, unfortunately, 150 horses or more that have been found [dead], were killed, or had to be put down,”

Lost HorsesIn a sobering count, more than 150 horses died as a result of the violent tornado that swept through Moore, Okla., on Monday. The number represents the entire community of farms that sit on the southern border of Oklahoma City, including Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses who were based at Celestial Acres Training Center.

Several organizations coordinating horse-rescue efforts, as well as local veterinarians and horse owners themselves, determined the number, said Joe Lucas, executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma.

“We’ve counted, unfortunately, 150 head or more that have been found [dead], were killed, or had to be put down,” Lucas said. “And that’s not just Celestial Acres. That’s the Moore area. That’s what we’ve gotten up to.”

Lucas said a hotline is being set up through the state Department of Agriculture for owners to inquire about lost horses. In addition, there are plans to post photos taken of both surviving and deceased horses for the purpose of identification. The Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association are helping with the process, Lucas said.

The team Lucas is working with has located 18 live horses in the Moore area, including five racehorses who were identified by their lip tattoos and sent to Remington Park in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

“I think we’ve found everything that can be found that’s out there alive,” Lucas said.

Lucas said another 10 rescued horses were sent to facilities in Moore, and an additional three were shipped to Heritage Place, the auction house in Oklahoma City that has opened its doors to displaced horses.

“Horses that have fairly minor injuries that are treatable, they can spend the night for a few days until things get settled,” said Spence Kidney, general manager of Heritage Place. “Plus, if some are not sure where their horses are, it’s a central place to identify those horses. We’re just trying to chip in a little. It’s a terrible situation.”

Kidney said Wednesday the facilities received a miniature stallion, a paint horse, and a small gray mare who appears to be a Welsh pony.

The Oklahoma Thoroughbred Retirement Program is providing support to horses displaced by the storm, including helping owners with some of the medical costs for the treatment of injured animals. The organization, which is accepting donations through its website,, also is seeking feed and equipment donations.

“We’re raising money to take care of the horses themselves,” said Chris Kirk, a director of the Oklahoma Thoroughbred Retirement Program.

Kirk said one of the most heartwarming stories during this difficult time was the rescue of an unraced 3-year-old Thoroughbred filly named Sasha’s Image. She was found at Celestial Acres on Tuesday evening, more than 24 hours after the storm hit. Sasha’s Image was heard whinnying from beneath some barn doors.

“From what I was told, she was laying flat on her side,” Kirk said. “Her ears were laying flat over the top of her head. They got her up, and her ears were still flat. They said the next morning her ears were pricked up again. She was in a lot of distress, but she’s doing better.”

Tornado hits Durant’s farm in Texas

Tom Durant, the all-time leading owner at Lone Star Park near Dallas, experienced significant damage to his farm in Granbury, Texas, last Wednesday due to a tornado. Durant lost nine horses in the storm, five of them yearlings from the first crop of his multiple stakes winner Sing Baby Sing.

“We took a direct hit,” said Jack Bruner, private trainer for Durant.

Bruner said there was no loss of human life at the farm, but the barns were destroyed, as were four tractors, stores of hay, and “countless miles of fence.” Bruner said he has yet to locate the farm’s six-horse trailer. He said 15 of Durant’s horses remain in the care of Equine Sports Medicine Surgery, an equine clinic in Weatherford, Texas.

“I cannot express how much they’ve done,” he said. “We could not have done it without them.”

Bruner said the majority of Durant’s mares and foals are based at Lane’s End Texas, while his racing operation is at Lone Star. The farm on Thursday was being cleared. “We’re going to rebuild,” Bruner said.

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Oklahoma Tornado: 34 horses Found Alive at Celestial Acres Training Center

Source: By Mary Rampellini of The Daily Racing Form

“People are giving horses water from plastic water bottles,”

Survivors of the CarnageA representative of the Celestial Acres Training Center in Moore, Okla., said 34 horses had been found alive as of Wednesday following Monday’s tornado, which packed winds of nearly 200 miles an hour.

The number of racehorses lost in the storm has been difficult to assess. Several trainers familiar with Celestial Acres estimate at least 80 horses were based there at the time of the storm. Tony Vann, a spokesperson for Glenn Orr and his son Tom, who own the facilities, said he is unable to give a “finite number” of horses stabled at the training center in part because those renting stalls were able to “come and go” as business dictated. As for the racehorse death toll, Vann said there is no accurate number that can be reported.

“There’s no way to quantify it at this point,” he said Wednesday. “Compounding things is that there are two other horse farms in that area and you can’t identify [the origin of some horses]. There’s a lot of things going on.”

A handful of racehorses were rescued from the rubble of the training center and were sent to Remington Park in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Also, Heritage Place, the nearby sales complex, has agreed to receive any other rescued horses and hold them until their owners can be found, said Joe Lucas, executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma.

Lucas said five racehorses, identified by their lip tattoos and with proper paperwork in place, were shipped to Remington, which is in the midst of a meet for Quarter Horses.

“The racehorses that we could identify all had papers on file at Remington,” Lucas said.

Lucas, who is helping coordinate horse-relief efforts, on Wednesday was working on importing a water truck to Moore. He said some water sources were contaminated, and others were shut off due to the storm.

“People are giving horses water from plastic water bottles,” he said. “Dehydration is a problem. Vets are in the field giving electrolytes.”

Lucas said the field efforts are being spearheaded by Danielle Barber, executive director of the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma, and Debbie Schauf, executive director of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association. Earlier this week, the organizations jointly established a charitable account to assist horsemen impacted by the tornado. All donations received will go directly to horsemen, according to a statement distributed late Tuesday.

“There are many horsemen who have been affected by this tragedy and have lost everything they own,” the statement said. “Both horsemen’s organizations, along with Remington Park in Oklahoma City, are working together in coordinating relief to horsemen that have been affected by the storm.”

Remington will race on Friday for the first time since the storm hit. A moment of silence in honor of the lives lost and the lives shattered due to the tornado will be observed prior to the start of the card, said Dale Day, a spokesperson for Remington.

The track, in addition to receiving horses, has also “adopted” 30 families impacted by the storm and is helping to meet some of their needs, said Day. Further, the employees of Remington on Tuesday sent four shipments of food prepared ontrack to the first responders command center in Moore. Remington on Friday will be hosting a blood drive from noon to 5 p.m., said Day. It is being held in conjunction with the Oklahoma Blood Institute.

The outpouring of support for the residents of Moore, as well as the displaced horses, has been outstanding, said both Day and Lucas.

“There was an anonymous person who gave $10,000 for feed and management [of the horses],” said Lucas.

Celestial Acres had four barns and a total of several hundred stalls, said Vann. Only one of those barns, on the north side of the five-furlong training track, was left standing after the storm. The 20 to 25 horses inside that barn all survived, according to Mark Lee, a trainer who lost the 12 horses he had stabled at Celestial Acres. The facilities also included several paddocks and an 85- by 200-foot arena.

“It’s just gone,” Vann said of the arena. “It’s just earth.”…(CONTINUED)

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Horse Trainer Loses Herd in Oklahoma Disaster

“Those horses are my livelihood and I consider them part of my family,”

Randy WeidnerGOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – From 800 miles away, the images of Mother Nature’s wrath in Oklahoma are breathtaking. From a few blocks, they’re something else entirely.

“It’s tough. It’s tough to grasp,” said Minnesota native Randy Weidner, who lost nearly everything in Moore tornado.

Weidner, 38, grew up in Rosemount, but travels across the country as a race horse trainer with his girlfriend, Lindsey White.

Since February, he’s lived at the Celestial Acres Training Center in Moore, Okla. He was set to head back to Minnesota on Wednesday morning to race his horses at Canterbury Park.

That all changed when the twister hit. With his voice sounding tired, he described the moments before the devastation.

“The winds were going crazy. And that’s when we tried to get the horses out, but the storm chasers that were there were loading their equipment back in their truck and said you guys got to get out of here right now,” he told KARE 11 by phone.

They were forced to leave their 12 horses behind. Looking to seek shelter they were on their way to the Moore Hospital when they decided to go to a friend’s house instead.

“The Moore hospital that we were going to go to took a direct hit from the tornado. I guess it’s a blessing that we continued on the road to our friend’s house,” he said.

Their horses were not as lucky. When Weidner returned to the stables, he found all of them dead, along with nearly 100 more lying in the field.

“Those horses are my livelihood and I consider them part of my family,” he said as his voice wavered.

His trailer, his truck and all of his personal belongings are gone too. He estimates about $260,000 is lost. All that’s left is a slab of concrete where he once laid his head at night.

And while he worries about paying the bills with his horses gone, he knows he hasn’t even suffered the worst of it.

“My heart just breaks for these families that lost love ones,” he said.

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Heavy Horse toll as Twister Destroys Famous OK Farm

Source: ~ Live Link

The station reported that 75 to 100 horses had died in the area and completely destroyed the farm

Orr Family

Up to 100 horses are feared dead after a massive tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City area.

Authorities say two people are known to have died in twisters that ravaged the area, and six are reported to have died in Texas as storms generated a series of deadly twisters.

Oklahoma and other Midwest areas remain on high alert, with fears the storm system could generate further twisters., Oklahoma’s Channel 4, in a live feed earlier today, reported on the devastation at the 106-acre Orr Family Farm in Moore.

The farm and an adjoining horse training and agistment facility took a massive hit from the tornado.

Footage revealed complete destruction, with the remains of stalls unrecognisable. Surviving horses could be seen in the footage.

The station reported that 75 to 100 horses had died in the area and completely destroyed the farm, run by Dr Glenn Orr and his family.

It is understood the farm’s stalls and barns took a direct hit from the tornado, which was estimated to be on the ground for 40 minutes as it took out everything in its path. It was estimated to be 3.2 kilometres wide.

Residents had about 16 minutes to seek safety.

The Orr family farm, responding to messages of support on its Facebook page, said: “Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. We are sorry we cannot reply to each of you at this time, as we are focusing on our staff, families and the farm.

“We are physically alright, but we have sustained a large amount of damage at the farm, and adjacent properties.

“We are still assessing damage to both properties and animals.”

Orr Family Farm spokesman Tony Vann told Horsetalk that communications were difficult, but he managed to obtain a brief update by text-messaging Dr Orr’s son, Tom.

He said the family and staff were all right, but he did not have information on the animals.

He said he had heard the report of 75 to 100 horse deaths, but could not confirm that.

He said the block of land where Orr Family Farm stood also housed another business, Celestial Acres, which was a horse training and agistment facility.

It is understood the Orr family also own that business.

Vann said Orr Family Farm did not have 75-100 horses on its property. That raised the likelihood that at least some of the reported horse deaths may have occurred on the agistment property.

Vann said the neighborhoods devastated by the tornado seen on media footage were in some cases only a few hundred metres from the Orr property.

He said there were five staff and family in the farm’s administration office, plus seasonal workers, on site when the tornado approached. All were able to reach safety before it struck.

Update from their Facebook Page:

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. We are sorry we cannot reply to each of you at this time, as we are focusing on our staff, families and the Farm. We are physically alright, but we have sustained a large amount of damage at the Farm and adjacent properties. We are still assessing damage to both properties and animals. We will post more updates as they become available. For media inquiries, please contact Tony Vann, (405) 609-7068.
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OK Man Survives Tornado in Horse Stall


Animals and Humans lost to Deadly Tornado
Click (HERE) or Image to view video report

Click (HERE) or Image to view video report

MOORE, Okla. – A man rode out the over two-mile wide Moore tornado in a horse stall Monday afternoon.

The man said his knowledge gained from living in Oklahoma was what saved his life.

He was outside when suddenly everything went quiet.

He said that is when you know something is going to happen and you better take cover.

The Moore resident works and lives on a horse ranch and hid in a horse stall during the tornado.

He said he thinks maybe only one of their horses survived the twister.

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Kentucky Reports Many Horses Killed by March 2 Tornadoes

by of

Humans, Horses, Homes and Barns Laid to Waste by Storms

Deadly Twisters tore at America's Heartland ~ photo by Brook Bunch

More and more the sad news is coming in of horse owners who have lost all or almost all of their horses in the March 2, 2012 tornadoes, often along with their homes and barns. Many horses who were not already dead had to be euthanized due to severe injuries they had suffered. Injured horses, other pets, and livestock have been keeping veterinarians in the area very busy.

Rhonda and Bill McCardle, of Crittenden, Kentucky, have been running their McCardle’s Hidden Stables for 40 years, are one of those horse owners whose lives were devastated by the March 2 tornadoes. After the tornado hit their ranch two people who lived on their farm were killed, Donald and Linda Beemon, and their ranch laid in ruin with 15 of their horses dead, and the family dogs are unaccounted for.

Loose horses were roaming around in the area of Henryville and surrounding areas hit hard by tornadoes. Many of these horses were being rounded up and trailered to Saddle Up Arena, an equestrian show facility, in Madison, Indiana. There were mares with foals by their sides included in the group of about 40 horses that were taken to the facility. Each horse is being tagged with the identification of the area they were found in for owner reference. Due to the Clark State Forestry horse trails being located within the Henryville area there were many horse farms located in the areas that were hit hard by the tornadoes. It is hoped that these horses can be reunited with their owners.

Anyone missing horses from the Southern Indiana area hit by tornadoes can contact Kelly Carr of Saddle Up Arena at: 502-645-2304. Saddle Up Arena is located at 178 North Badger Road, Madison, IN.

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