John Poe, left, Diane Royall and Mike Villancourt work on part of a 10-foot ramp to help walk an older horse with one blind eye out of a man-made fish pond after he fell in. (Valerie Jackson)

HORSEPLAY: Groups work together to rescue horse

AFTER HEARING ABOUT the hundreds of horses rescued and evacuated during the recent Northern California wildfires by local volunteer horse emergency response organizations, I wondered if there are such teams on our Peninsula.

Apparently not.

Neither Clallam nor Jefferson County has an emergency response team, or disaster plan, for large animals.

Their focus is on people, and rightly so.

I think at the very least, though, we should be able to call a central number, such as the police or fire department, should we have a large animal emergency.

Fallen in

Case in point: Olympic Peninsula Equine Network founders Valerie Jackson and Diane Royall were asked to help a friend who was in a panic because her older horse had fallen into a very large fish pond on the property she was renting and couldn’t get out.

By the time they were called, the horse, who is blind in one eye, was exhausted, making it all the more difficult to try to help him up and over the side of the man-made pond.

Royall said they called both the police and fire departments for help but were told they were not equipped to help with large-animal rescues.

“So who is?” she asked.

They didn’t know.

She called Clallam County Animal Control Officer Tracy Kellas for help.

Kellas drove over to help, but she’s the county’s one and only animal control officer. Royall also called Layton Hill Horse Camp owner Del Sage, who came to help.

Five long hours later, the horse was out and is now doing fine, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a list of folks willing to help with such rescues?

When I spoke with Jamye Wisecup, Clallam County’s emergency management coordinator, a few months ago, she said she’s hoping to get a volunteer horse organization going, but to help rescue people, not necessarily horses.

After all, she reasoned, if an earthquake takes down major bridges, she believes horse owners could play a huge role in taking supplies and help to those in isolated areas.

To volunteer, shoot Wisecup an email at [email protected]

Wisecup stresses in the case of a major earthquake or disaster, we need to be prepared to shelter at home and have a backup plan that doesn’t require crossing a bridge in case your home and/or the bridge is destroyed.

Find out more information about disaster preparedness, along with a useful map of possible evacuation routes in case of an earthquake and tsunami, online at

Have you prepared your household — which includes your animals and livestock — should disaster strike us living on the North Olympic Peninsula?

We’ve all been warned to have our “grab and go” backpacks filled with three-day supplies of water, prescription medications, first-aid kit, blankets and nonperishable foods in both our cars and homes.

We’ve also been warned to have a minimum of three weeks of food and water for ourselves and animals in case we need to shelter in place.

Three-month supply

Personally, I think a three-month supply is more prudent, as help from the outside world might be slow in coming.

For me, keeping a three-month supply of food for four dogs and two horses on hand at all times sounded a bit daunting, until I realized I didn’t need to buy it all at once.

Just buying a little bit more frequently (like not waiting until I run out) has enabled me to slowly build up my supply.

What’s your plan should a wildfire rear its ugly head and you have five minutes (hopefully) to pack up your animals and flee?

Is there gas in your vehicle?

How fast can you hook up your horse trailer and load your horse when stressed?

Do you keep some horse and animal feed and equipment in the trailer at all times — and in a container mice can’t penetrate?

Do you keep an emergency go-to bag in your car?

Remember to include emergency contacts and pet food, too.

I’ve heard some have found success being reunited with their horses by painting their phone numbers on them when they’ve had to turn the horses loose to fend for themselves when fleeing a wildfire.

HALTER project

From previous wildfires, horse owners formed their own emergency response teams consisting of individual horse owners and veterinarians.

The Horse and Livestock Emergency Response (HALTER) project was formed to provide rural communities with information and resources for animal emergencies, including their own emergency response teams consisting of individual horse owners and veterinarians.

In California, they teamed with the U.C. Davis large-animal emergency response team to help care for and coordinate hundreds of horse evacuations in the recent Sonoma County fire.

HALTER stresses the best outcome for animals and humans comes through trained first responders, veterinarians and animal owners working together.

Tips and a disaster plan checklist can be found on HALTER’s website at

Evacuation plan

The website also provides solid advice for an evacuation plan:

• Know the best potential shelter locations for all of your animals and have a backup.

• Identify all your travel escape routes.

• Make sure all vehicles and trailers are loaded with supplies, equipment, first-aid kits and fuel.

• Ensure halters, leashes, ropes, crates, cages, etc., are ready for each animal.

• Keep a duplicate document binder in your vehicle and at home for first responders for all animals left behind.

• Take lots of water.

In the meantime, get to know your neighbors.

Should disaster strike, we’ll need to help each other.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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