05/22/2013 5:35PM

Oklahoma tornado: 34 horses found alive at Celestial Acres Training Center


A 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.”

Credit or debit card donations to the relief effort can be made by calling the OQHRA at (405) 216-0440. Checks can be made payable to the TRAO Benevolence Fund or the OQHRA Benevolence Fund, with the memo line to read 2013 Tornado. Donations can be sent to TRAO at 2620 NW Expressway, Suite A, Oklahoma City, Okla., 73112, or the OQHRA, P.O. Box 2907, Edmond, Okla., 73083.

MargieHarrtle More than 1 year ago
I totally agreed with you Nanci Little. As a lover of horses and had two I love dearly until their death due to old age and they were put down the humane way and I stay, prayed and kissed them during that difficult time- I agreed with you. Why not the humans who send their horses to slaughter go down that comcrete shoots in their place! I darn you people to do that and see the terror in your eyes! take their place!!!
Nanci Little More than 1 year ago
Sandra, humane? To take animals that are taught from birth to TRUST humans, to not HURT humans, to turn to humans for HELP... and send them down concrete shoots with the smell of blood and the sound of horses screaming in terror... as claustrophobic as horses ARE, that death is their worst nightmare. Without horses.. we could not have fought WW I and WW II.. Without horses, actually.. there would not have been cities because we were hunter gatherers until there were farms.. There would not have been the spread across north America! Mail on the pony express... Horses were used to lay the tracks for the railroad.. Horses drove the cattle north TO THE RAILROAD to feed the East's taste for meat.. Horses put smiles on my grandkid's faces AND take me into MY church... the quiet of a woodland trail, crossing streams and climbing hills in awe of the beauty of Nature. To send your horse off to slaughter.. instead of being a responsible compassionate OWNER who would put down an old or sick horse that served you well - quickly and without pain and terror - is the epitome of selfish greed. It shows that such a person was born without mirror neurons which are necessary to feel empathy.. and are hereditary... and so such people are reproducing others just like them.. And we wonder what is WRONG with the world!?
Sandra Halvorson Tocko More than 1 year ago
Slaughter in the US is actually a good thing as it saves the sick, old, injured and ailing horses from being shipped for several days in terrible conditions to slaughter outside of the US. It's actually MUCH more humane. As a horse person, I'd rather my horse not suffer any longer than need be, IF one of mine were to be shipped to slaughter.
Alicia Warden More than 1 year ago
Slaughterhouses REJECT "sick, old, ailing horses"! They want prime cuts. Let's not TRY to sugarcoat slaughter. It is anything BUT humane!
Sandra Halvorson Tocko More than 1 year ago
They will use the sick/old/ailing horses for uses other than meat. What do you think the slaughter - buyers do with all of the horses that aren't "prime" that they buy at action, let them loose? Don't be ignorant, they're definitely not going to retirement homes! The REAL problem is horse owners who shouldn't have horses - if you can't afford to humanely euthanize and dispose of your horse's body (approx $2,000-$5,000 for the vet/transport/cremation as burial is not a common option), then you shouldn't have a horse, or more. We need to hold the owners accountable, not torture the victims by shipping them to Canada or Mexico because it makes us feel better to not have slaughterhouses on US soil.
Dawn Jeronowitz More than 1 year ago
Hopefully Governor Fallin and the Oklahoma Legislatures will begin to recognize the value, love and importance we have for our Horses, for Life... Shame on Oklahoma for signing laws to approve horse slaughter... hopefully none of these equine tornado survivors will end up on Governor Fallins' slaughter butcher block.
Penny Lillis More than 1 year ago
I agree. Such a sad time for OK . Let's hope the gov. and legislators see the importance of the horse industry. I hope and pray that more horses are found alive and that the recovery is quick for the people. Thank you to all who are assisting
aelafave More than 1 year ago
Some good news...hope it continues!
Elizabeth Dana More than 1 year ago
Oklahoma has once again shown their love and respect for their horses and the outpouring of kindness from all across the country has shown the kinship between horse owners and their horses. New York sends prayers to Oklahoma for quiet healing and fast resolve. Please let our rescues know if there are horses in need of adoption...with love to all of the families who are suffering now...we don't know how to support the grieving parents ...all I can do is buy hay ...I feel so helpless May God send angels to be with you at your side......
Nanci Little More than 1 year ago
Seems Oklahoma thinks horses really are just.... meat..
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
I would like to see DRF set up a fund to send donations specifically to help care for these animals. I will donate.
Sandra Halvorson Tocko More than 1 year ago
There are a lot of funds out there - just MAKE SURE they are legit.
Gary Camejo More than 1 year ago
Dick More than 1 year ago
Such a sad story,,,, We all need to help these beautiful horses......
Terri Russell More than 1 year ago
Happy for the survivors. Very sad about those who were lost to the storm. Hopefully there will be more turn up alive in the coming days..