Wellington, Fla. — Nov. 9, 2020 — In 25 years, the Equestrian Aid Foundation has helped over 500 equestrians through times of critical need. While many have faced personal medical crises, a growing number of horsemen are experiencing the devastation of catastrophic weather events. In 2019, EAF expanded its mission by creating a Disaster Relief Fund to assist equestrian communities in the aftermath of natural or other unforeseen disasters.
Community support for the fund was strong from the outset, due in large part to the Paddock Master Pruning. The brainchild of Pat Duncan, the event involved three beloved Winter Equestrian Festival paddock masters shaving their heads and beards to raise money and awareness for EAF’s Disaster Relief Fund. This moment of levity paved the way for serious work ahead.
Just weeks after the event, massive spring flooding devastated the Heartland, leaving many horse owners in the region with little except their animals. With community support and a portion of funds from the Pruning — and in partnership with the Fleet of Angels Emergency Horse Hay Program — EAF purchased a tractor trailer load of hay that was delivered to a community in dire need on the Iowa/Nebraska border.
Since the fund’s creation, relief has been delivered in response to wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, blizzards, and drought. “Due to the unpredictability of these events, we learn as we go,” said EAF board member Robert Ross. “It’s essential to find the boots-on-the-ground equestrian community leaders in disaster areas and rely on their expertise regarding what horsemen need and how best to get it to them.”
EAF’s Disaster Relief Fund was also instrumental in the foundation’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent industry shutdown in March 2020. Within a week of the shutdown, EAF implemented an emergency grant program for out-of-work industry professionals and service providers. The program delivered nearly $200,000 in grant money to equestrians in need.
Now, the Foundation is focused on next steps for its Disaster Relief Fund. “A recent estimate is that nearly one in three Americans experienced a weather disaster last summer. Our community needs to be both prepared for and ready to respond to these worst-case scenarios for horse owners,” said EAF board member Louise Riggio. “By continuing to fundraise and build productive partnerships throughout the community, we believe we can take a very active role in this essential work.”
For more information, please visit EquestrianAidFoundation.org.