Oklahoma Horsemen Lose Livelihoods in Tornado

Relief efforts are under way for horse owners hit by a tornado near Oklahoma City.

Q-Racing Journal
May 23, 2013

A rescuer leads a horse from the rubble in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo)

Relief efforts are under way for horse owners affected by the May 20 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, near Oklahoma City. (AP Photo)

On May 20, a devastating tornado hit Oklahoma, with major damage sustained in Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City. The tornado has been declared an F5. Dozens of people are reported dead with many more injured or missing. Recovery efforts are under way.

Among the tremendous damage and loss was the destruction of several horse properties, including the Orr Family Farm and Celestial Acres Training Center. A large number of horses, thought to be 75-100, have been killed in the storm. According to reports, many of these horses are probably American Quarter Horses.

AQHA will accept donations from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 22-24. The donations will be delivered May 25.

Orr Family Farm posted a message to its Facebook page: “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of those fellow horseman who have volunteered their services, supplies and acreage. At this time, we are assessing the damage and are reconciling the number of animals lost or injured. We encourage everyone not to enter this area as first responders are still actively searching for human life. We have set up a hotline for those who would like to leave their name and number so that when we know more of our needs we may be able to call upon your generous offers. That hotline is (405) 283-2258. Once again, thank you for your show of generosity and know your thoughts and prayers have been heard by our family.”

Later Orr Family Farm Facebook posts show some of the devastation and the complete loss of the Celestial Acres Training Center, but the Facebook comments also indicate 34 horses survived the disaster. A Paypal account has been set up for those who wish to donate to the farm.

Racehorse trainer Randy Weidner lost 12 horses in the tornado, including his own and those owned by clients. Randy and his girlfriend, Lindsay White, also lost virtually all their personal belongings, tack and equipment, and truck and trailer.

"I lost all my horses that were there, 12 including the pony horse and two Thoroughbreds." Randy said in a telephone interview with Q-Racing. "The barn is gone, truck and trailer gone. We lived in the barn. Everything we own is gone."

 Randy said he was trying to get the horses out but the tornado was too close too quickly. He said the first sign of real danger was when he saw storm chasers pull into the farm to video.

"The storm chasers loaded up their gear and yelled at us to leave now," Randy said. "We got in the car and left. We had no time to load any horses. Three minutes later, the barn was gone."

"We lost everything, our jobs, our horses, our client horses and our livelihood."

The Minnesota native said, "I have one client's horse at Canterbury and two more shipping up from Texas next week. We have to go back to work. I was due to ship and load out (May 21).

"The outpouring of calls and texts is incredible. Everyone is asking what we need. We need everything but are still trying to figure out where to start. The OQHRA and others have already started to help us," he added.

An account to help Randy has been established at Wells Fargo Bank. Contributions can be made to the Randall Weidner Catastrophe Trust via Wells Fargo Bank, 380 S. Marschall Road, Shakopee, MN, 55379 or direct contributions can be made through Paypal via RWQuarters@yahoo.com.

Other racing horsemen affected by the storm and in need of help are urged to call the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association at (405) 640-2628 or (405) 623-3234.

OQHRA and the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma have set up a fund within their respective benevolence organizations.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in Oklahoma following this horrific event," the organizations said in a joint statement. "There are many horsemen who have been affected by this tragedy and have lost everything they own. ... 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. Both offices have been encouraged by the outpouring of support and offers for help from across the country; it truly displays 'horsemen helping horsemen.' Many of those horsemen have lost everything – horses, possessions, tack and equipment, and their homes. They have many needs that cannot be met by traditional social agencies. ... All donations will be distributed directly to horsemen and their families that were affected by the storms in this area."

If you would like to make a monetary donation to the affected horseman, send a check to the OQHRA Benevolence Fund and write "tornado relief" in the memo.

3317 E. Memorial Rd.
Edmond, OK 73013

Among the items needed:

  • Clothes of all sizes for men and women, including shoes
  • Children’s clothing
  • Water
  • Coolers for water
  • Toiletries
  • Hand wipes
  • Trash bags
  • Storage tubs
  • Work gloves
  • Rakes and shovels
  • Nonperishable quick food items such as energy bars, fruit snacks, etc.

Remington Park is also accepting item donations May 21 at the racing entrance to be transported to Moore. Items needed include water, diapers, nonperishable food, clothes, etc.

The Women's Horse Industry Network is raising funds to help horse owners in the affected areas. People who wish to make a donation to this effort can do so by visiting WHIN's website at www.womenshorseindustry.com

Further relief efforts for affected horsemen are being set up and will be posted here when information becomes available.

Donations can also be made to help the general relief effort:

  • The Salvation Army: To make a $10 donation, text “storm” to 80888.
  • The Red Cross: Make a donation to www.redcross.org/okc or www.redcross.org or by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • United Way of Central Oklahoma’s Disaster Relief Fund is open. Donations may be made online at www.unitedwayokc.org
  • Contributions to the Moore & Shawnee Tornado Relief Fund can be made securely online at www.TulsaCF.org.