February 2010 marked record snow falls with back-to-back storms wrecking havoc on the Mid-Atlantic. Many Maryland equestrians were without power and snowed in for days. Farm owners had to find creative ways to care for horses and the steady sound of plowing seemed to fill the air each day. In the end, many barns and indoors collapsed, but fortunately, no horses were reported as being injured in these instances. Here is The Equiery’s recap of the 2010 blizzards as told from The Equiery’s readers.
How a Village Saved A Horse
by Elisa Harvey (Sandy Spring)
Sometimes it is hard to understand when a terrible thing happens, until in the aftermath something incredible and wonderful unfolds. That is exactly what happened on Sunday February 7th around noon in Ashton at the intersection of the Routes 108 and 650. My son Alex and I were enjoying a wonderful ride on the beautiful sunny day following the first blizzard with our two Norwegian Fjord Horses through Sandy Spring and Ashton, before much plowing had occurred or many cars were around. Just past Sherwood High School I noticed some blood on the left front leg and belly of Alex’s horse Ture, and within seconds it became obvious that he had cut his leg below the fetlock on something (we never saw what it was) and severed the artery. The bleeding quickly became profuse and I guided us into the parking lot next to the Seven Eleven. I pulled off my scarf to form a tourniquet as best I could, but it was obvious that would not be nearly enough.
That’s when the miracle started to happen. People I didn’t even know started to appear to help. There were so many I don’t think I even got all of their names. My new heroes the farrier Cowboy Glen and his friend Brian Henry were first on the scene and they ran to get duct tape and rubber tubing to make a stronger tourniquet. I couldn’t move the horses or get my trailer at home out of the snow to take them anywhere so I called my equine veterinarian “Dr. Anna” Dechtiaruk of Damascus Equine Associates. She was trapped at her house near Sunshine so Brian volunteered to go and get her while Glen held the tourniquet. Another bystander, dentist Dr. Joseph Arroyo and his daughter contacted their friend and equine veterinarian Dr. Wendy Walker in Brookeville, but she was stuck too. Someone went to fetch her!
The cell phone calls were flying and many people were gathering to do anything they could to help. A woman named Kathi who lived called to ask her friend Kyle Jossi, a well known member of TROT, to come and help since Kyle is a “horse person.” She brought halters and grain. Three girls living nearby, one of them named Aliana, went to get carrots for the horses. Glen soothed Ture while Kathi and others tried to help me stay calm. When Dr. Anna arrived the parking lot was full of blood but she calmly went to work right there, tranquilizing Ture and performing surgery on the spot to ligate the artery and sew up the cut. As I recall Dr. Arroyo even assisted!
Meanwhile, Brian was coordinating borrowing a horse trailer from Bartley Trailers and fetching that (all on the snowy icy roads). My friend and teacher Vanessa Swartz from Windsor Manor Stables in Sandy Spring arrived to help. She called Erica Greenwald of Iron Bridge Hunt Pony Club and both Erica and Aliana independently called Rumsey Keefe of Avalon Farms right up the road to see if the horses could go there temporarily until the roads were clear back to my house and barn in Sandy Spring. With no hesitation or notice and barely any information at all Rumsey agreed. Dr. Walker arrived with more bandaging supplies and medications if needed. Then the horse trailer arrived and a small army of people then helped load our anxious horses onto the unfamiliar stock trailer. Brian took us and the horses to Rumsey’s, where they were made very comfortable right away. Then Brian went back to Bartley’s to drop off the trailer, and then even drove us home through the unplowed roads to our house! We even came back to the Seven Eleven on the way to find Cowboy Glen cleaning up.
Do you see what I mean? There were literally dozens of people who took hours out of their day to help a horse in distress. Many of them didn’t know us and those members of the equine community who did know us had other plans for that afternoon but that didn’t stop any of them from doing everything they possibly could to prevent Ture from bleeding to death in that parking lot. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that I can never repay all of these extraordinary people for all they did that day. All I can offer is a most heartfelt thank you from the bottom of my heart to every single person that was there, and apologize for not getting everyone’s name in the chaos of the moment. I will remember this day for the rest of my life, not because of the potentially catastrophic injury that Ture suffered, but because of the miraculous response of the many people who stepped in to help a horse and his boy.
I also wanted to let everyone know that Ture has recovered well and is back to his usual mischievous self. We got him home from Rumsey’s just in time for the second blizzard and he is now comfortable in his own stall. We can watch him from our window again. For this I have so many people to thank.
“My wonderful husband has done a heroic job getting us down to our barn, using our tractor with bucket. It was a life saver! We have been very lucky as we never lost power during any of these storms.” – Lynell Abbott (Lovettsville, VA)
“Sent all the horses out to play in the snow. One of the boarders horses, a paint named Shadow, decided it would be great to roll in the snow drifts. As we watched, he ended up upside down but just did not get up. His friends in the field were two muls who carefully approached him to sniff. He still did not get up. At first we whought he was playing. Shortly we decided that he was in trouble. It was a long walk out to pull him up. He was fine but I am glad I took the time to watch my horses play in the snow.” – Barbara Leighton, Foxfields Farm (Milton, DE).
(photo below): “Guess I’m an old fart because this [amount of snow] is what I remember as a kid… through then I played vs. work in it. Got my 4×4 stuck due to plowed snow at the driveway mouth. Dig and rock… dig and rock… enough momentum and hit gas and DON’T STOP… smiles.” – Milt Savage, The Daily Times
“The best story I can share is to be as prepared, especially if you run the risk of not being able to get to your horses for 24-48 hours. With back to back snow accumulation forecasted we did not take any chances. We had ample feed stocked in advance. We always have three months stocked up anyway. All of our equines were kept outside (they have lots of well bedded shelter). We put extra round bales of hay in all of our fields and paddocks, ample bedding in all of our run in sheds, doubled up on water tubs and tank heaters, checked all waterproof turnout rugs, ample access to mineral salt. And we placed additional round bales of hay under protected cover where they would be easily accessible for additional feeding. In addition, we fed everyone a nice warm bran mash beforehand. All other animals were kept in barn stalls (goats, geese) and cats remained inside as well. Food was organized for them, in case a neighbor might have to feed. We also turned off breakers to the well pump and hot water heater (in case of a power outage and lack of heat if water pipes broke water would not flood the barn or lack of burn up the hot water heater). Thank goodness we were prepared, it took us 48 hours to get out of our neighborhood to get to our farm. Our farm neighbor used his bobcat to plow to our barn and take care of everything. We can’t thank Ritchie Astlin enough. Our new home is actually under construction on the farm right now (completion date April lst). This will end a lot of sleepless worried nights for me. It took four hours of heavy excavation equipment to plow our long driveway and paths into and through all of our field gates (twice; once for each snow). Thank you Jamie Leppo. All animals are healthy, safe and bewildered by all of this white stuff. And we humans are still digging snow!” – Bette Sachetti, Brave Venture Farm
“…they came, they rescued us. Worst snowfall season ever recorded.” – Janice Gill (Olney)
“Thanks to Mr. Clark and Robert Beall and neighbors, friends and friendly farmers with BIG tractors and loaders, we were able to get out of our almost 3/4 mile long driveway after the two snow storms.” – Rebecca Crown, Green Acres Farm (Clarksburg)
“How can anyone prepare for nearly 5 ft of snow when you have 18 horses to care for? We put extra roundbales in the fields, checked waters and hoped their natural instincts would take over. For the horses that come in nightly, we lugged an extra 150 gallon water tank into the barn and filled it in case we lost power (and therefore water).
The snow, the wind, the drifting far exceeded anything we could have imagined. Just getting down to the barn proved a monumental task made possible with snow shoes that were lent by a friend who lives in Vermont most of the year and is familiar with such weather. Horses in the barn had their grain ration cut and were given extra hay. Stall cleaning standards were relaxed as there was no way to dump the wheelbarrow.
When we finally got them out, we watched carefully to make sure no one got cast in the snow. A yearling stood in deep snow “grazing” which we thought was funny at first but after 40 minutes of him not moving we wondered if he could move. So we waded out and got him to walk; apparently he thought he couldn’t move, the snow being well up to his chest.
Ornamental cardinals during the worst of the blizzard in the lilac bush beside the feeder which we tried to keep filled for them.
Our neighbors helped with barn cleaning and a local farmer, Richard Brandenburg was a godsend with his super tractor; nothing else would have gotten us out! We are wondering if Vancouver would like to move their snowboard competition here!
Our great Danes discovered they could just walk out over the five ft drift that was next to their fence! A yearling discovered jumping out was much easier with the high snow.” – Lori Garnant, Dundulk Sporthorses
“I had to dig out the gates so that the horses could go in and out. My husband Brian and son Jimmy had to shovel the snow off the barn roof before it collapsed. Our pasture looks pristine.” – Martha Duchnowski, Silk Purse Farm (Nokesville, VA)
More Snow Troubles
(printed in the March 2010 Equiery)
Record snowfall in February wrecked havoc on the entire Mid-Atlantic region. With heavy snow comes an array of challenges for farm and horse owners, including roof collapses, power outages and high snowdrifts, taxing the resources and nerves of Maryland horse farm owners and managers.
Kerry Shanahan, barn manager at Ballyclare Farms in Poolesville, and her staff noticed a crack in of the barn’s support beams while feeding on the morning of February 7 (between storms). Sensing danger, Shanahan said, “we got everyone out of there and into a pasture.” Within the hour, the barn collapsed and Shanahan had to figure out what to do with the 20 horses on the property. “Roxane Saenz from Serenity Springs called me and said that she had taken over the old R & F Stables and that we could use the farm,” said Shanahan. Getting the horses over the new farm involved plowing the driveways at both farms and digging out two trailers. Since the snow banks were so high and there was no room to turn trailers around, horses had to be loaded and unloaded on the main road. “It was a huge community effort and thankfully the horses were amazing,” she added.
Bascule Farm’s old indoor, named the “Quonset Hut,” was another victim of the back-to-back blizzards. Farm owner Julie Hagen (Poolesville) described the indoor as “indestructible [since it] survived the blizzard of 2003 and an F1 tornado in 2003, [plus] whatever came before us.” Thankfully, there were no injuries to animals or humans.
It has also been confirmed that barns or indoors at the following farms collapsed: Brooke Grove Farm (Olney), Woodland Farm (Silver Spring), Horsepen Hill Farm (Bowie), Catching Dreams Stables (Poolesville), Fox Chapel Farm (Brookeville)… and the list continues to get bigger.
Connie McRill’s indoor in Woodbine was one of the many in the area to collapse after the second storm. “Fortunately no animals or humans were in it. It was built to code for 30-inches of snow load with a 4’ deep cement foundation but I guess the next one will need to withstand 48-inches,” said McRill.
A Too Familiar Story
by Bruce Scarborough
Well, here’s a potentially bad story – my wife is at the family farm in Finksburg, MD where the snow is so high she has been unable to get out to the barn since yesterday morning to feed the horses. The tractor is stuck and she has been unable to bust thru snow that is chest deep. The barn (basically run in sheds) are at the top of the hill, where is it windy and the snow is drifting back over any path she atempts to make. Unfortunately, the barns are about 1/4 mile from the house, uphill.
A couple neighbhors who have been plowing their driveway out have busted tractors and are unable to help at this time and even if they can get to the driveway its about 3/4 of a mile from the road to the barns, so it would not be an easy feat. Plus, it is not flat as there is a decent drop to cross a stream and them come back up.
As I said the horses have not been seen since yesterday morning, when they got the grain and about 4 hay flakes each. If my wife had had any idea she’d not be able to get back out there, she’d have given them a bale each, but who know it’d be that bad. There is a lot of concern now that the horses may colic, in which case there is not any way of them can be taken any where as the trailers are snowed in.
There is currently one other neighbor w/ a tractor who says he’ll may be able to get there in about an hour and if so then hopefully he’ll be able to break through. I figure it is better to have too much help rathetr than too little.
Thankfully, they did get someone to plow them out and my wife was able to get to the horses. It was very scary for a bit.
(photo below): Dick Southard driving a John Deere to clear out one of the driveways at Scarlett Thicket Farm. “Dick had to plow a path in the field, with quite a steep hill, to allow the cows and calves to get down to the White Clay Creek to be able to get their water.” – Lua Oas Southard
“I have a Days End Farm horse here at Goss Pocket Farm. He is smart, kind, affectionate, curious and the snow seemed to worry him. Was he going o go hungry again? I offered him warm water and he drank a large bucketful with a blissful smile. He had hay, but just to be sure, investigated evertyhing in my barn corridor, looking for secret stashes of food. He found my stray cat food and ate it all.” – Judith Robinson (Sykesville)
“The most impressive snow incident of the new year came after getting my Tahoe stuck in the driveway of the farm, spending the night in the farm house office was the manuvers pulled off to unstuck the tractor, [which was] stuck the next morning while trying to clear the 4-foot snow drifts from the driveway. My dad came to help and was insturcting the barn manager wtih the slick moves he learned from many years of watching his brother stuck and unstuck various pieces of equipment… right front brake, left rear brake, bucket down and reverse, and the tractor jolts back 6-feet. And again, right front brake, left rear brake, bucket down and back the tractor shoots. Some cedar tree brances under the tire when it turned icy. And the tractor was unstuck!” – Antoinette and Janet Eikenberg (Baltimore)
“As a person who rents one property for horses while living on another, I found one thing that was simple and worked during our recent snows when I worried that I may be delayed getting to the barn. I placed a plastic 35 gallon trashcan, a muck bucket or large rubbermaid stroage trunk in each stall and filled it to the brim in addition to filling the regular water bucket and feed buckets with water. Not very fance but worked like a charm. Little effort, big peace of mind. As soon as I can, I plan to make corner feeders for each stall with slatted sides large enough to hold a whole bale of hay. This will serve two purposes. A whole bale per animal can be left without worry about waste. By taking these precautions, I am hoping to guarantee it will never snow again!” – Lori Brunnen (Mt. Airy)
(photo bottom): “Our hay barn caved in… what a mess!” – Kara and Kenny Mills, Lots of Pines Farm (Fruitland)
“My two Rocky Mountain Horse geldings are boarded at a farm on the Eastern Shore about 11 miles from where I live. The horses’ stalls are large, 12 x 18′, and the stall doors are often open to allow the horses constant access to their turnout area. Instead of using their great strengths to knock down some of the recent two to three feet of snow outdoors, though, the horses just stood at the stall doors, gazed with an expression of resignation at the snow and munched on hay, couch-potato-like, since there was no incentive to work hard outside.
Being the caring horse-owner that I am, however, I braved the snow, wind, ice, and Eastern Shore ditches along the road (now hidden with snow piles), and 4-wheeled my way to the barn, wanting to do something for my “boys” that would lessen whatever winter woes they had.
After checking their blankets and feet, and making sure they had plenty of unfrozen drinking water, I ventured out into the knee-high, sometimes thigh-high snow, to tromp some of it down to at least show my big snowbirds (NOT!) that the snow did not have to defeat them. With two layers of headgear pulled down on my head, I got right to work, stomping and stamping my way through the snow, but making slow progress. With the noise I was making, and two layers covering my ears, I was unable to hear some sounds; but I was suddenly aware of a presence behind me. Looking around, my alpha gelding, Dakota, was standing patiently behind me, steam coming from his nostrils, and his buddy Chase, close behind him, waiting for the next few steps forward. They had both followed carefully in my footsteps, interested to know where my trail would lead, I’m sure, and willing to move along about two steps a minute. I laughed out loud. There was something wrong with this picture! In the western movies the cowboy (or girl) would hold onto the horse’s tail as the trusty steed would help him or her through the drifts or up the mountain!
I admit to giving out after half-way clearing about a 20′ stretch of “trail,” and once the horses discovered it was a trail to nowhere, they headed out into the deep snow, and without much effort (it seemed to me), circled around and slogged their way back into the stalls, breaking a fresh trail in about ten seconds…
Although my heart was in the right place, I think I’ll spare my back, arms, wrists, etc. in the future, and let the boys decide when they’ve had enough inside time and want to go out into the great outdoors – even if it’s all white and very deep.” – Gail Clark-Brodt (Easton)
“Here’s what the gate into my barn looked like this morning. A view of the barn as well. Incredible amounts of snow on teh ground. It was higher than my waist and I had to body surf my way to the barn on Thursday. I started out for the barn on foot today since Rusty Bucket was trapped behind a huge plow drift. Got rides most of the way there and back. Nice chance to chat with neighbors. When I got back, I walked over to the Etchison store to see if I could borrow a shovel. Seeing a huge John Deere tractor and a couple farmer-looking dudes, I approached and asked if they had a shovel. The one fellow laonically answered “yep.” When I asked him if I could borrow it, he said “nope.”
Well, after they had a little fun, he brought his shovel, which turned out to be the bucket of his humongous tractor and removed teh very considerable plow drift in front of my truck. My only regret is, I didn’t think to take a picture of the tracto dwarfing my truck while he worked until it was too late. Only took him a couple of minutes.
When I got to the barn, I turned my horses out for an hour just right in front of the barn. Mostly, they stood under the overhand and ate the hay I had put out. But I missed another picture I wish I had taken: Charley floundered out into the big drift in front of the barn and decided to have a nice roll. As he lowered his body, the most comically bewildered expression came over his face. The world just wasn’t working the way it usually did. He folded his legs, but his body was borne up by th esnow. The image of only the top third of his body sticking up out of the snow and his utterly bewildered look on his face had me laughing so hard I forgot to take a picture. He gave a sad resigned sigh after regaining his legs and returned to the overhand without his morning roll.” – Debby Lynn
“Well, knowing that the first blizzard produced heavy snow and high winds, and that “blizzard take two” was on its way, I just could not sleep before getting the 4-foot drifts off our barn roof structure. So, on Monday evening, I secured a few “muscle men” willing to take on the task of shoveling off the barn roof. My husband joing in the roof effort with a snow blower… although I think that method actually ended up being more labor than using shovels! By the first fall of snow on Tuesday, the entire barn roof was cleared and ready for the next heavy winded storm to arrive… and we all slept well, albeit a bit muscle sore, knowing that our horses would be safe and covered by a sound structure. My heart goes out to several friends who’s barns and indoor arenas actually collapsed.” – Phoebe DeVoe-Moore
“I was well set to keep the place open. The blade was on the tractor. The chains were on the tractor. The tractor was parked in a place I could get it out. I plowed the lane at night before bed so it would not be too deep in the morning. The farm road to the barn was a secondary issue. I had enough to do just keeping the main lane open. I had plenty of hay in the barn. I keep two “emergency” rolls of hay in the back of the barn for just this type of situation. But I do have to haul five 2-gallon buckets of soaked alfalfa cubes to the barn for the morning feeding. There was no way I was able to push a wheelbarrow through this snow. It was enough trouble to shovel (and keep open) a walking path to the electric fencer, but it was too far to shovel a walking path all the way to the barn. By the time the first storm stopped, the snow was too deep to drive the tractor down to the barn. I walked my way to the barn in 28 inch deep snow, fortunately downhill, and decided the easy way to open a walking and tractor path was to ride a horse to break trail. So I rode one of my Brabants bareback up and down the road. Once the trail was broken, I drove the tractor up and down the farm road to make a decent walking path. I didn’t have the time to worry about plowing the road out fully. Once I had a good path, I found an old plastic sled in the shed to slide the feed buckets down to the barn on. All the equines, three donkeys and three horses, ate well, abeit a few hours late.” – Karen Gruner (Ijamsville)