From Flooding to Fire, Hay Helps

Colorado Horsecare Foodbank has helped Colorado horse owners through fire, and now historic flooding.

By Christine Hamilton
The American Quarter Horse Journal
September 17, 2013

Colorado Horsecare Foodbank in 2013

Colorado Horsecare Foodbank volunteers load hay during the 2013 Black Forest Fires in El Paso County. CHF has helped provide horse owners affected by natural disasters such as the 2012 High Park Fire in Larimer County and the recent 2013 Front Range Flooding. (Journal photo)

Though the break in the rain September 16 and 17 gave rescuers an opportunity to continue to evacuate flood victims from the towns and canyons along the Colorado Front Range, floodwaters continue to spread eastward into the farmland towns, fields and pastures where the mountains meet the plains.

And Colorado Horsecare Foodbank is getting inundated with calls for help from owners needing help getting hay to stranded and displaced horses. The current need in Northern Colorado is getting more and more daunting as the flood waters recede.

“We need money, and we need hay donated,” Juliana Lehman, founder and chairwoman of the 501 (c) 3 non-profit, told The American Quarter Horse Journal. (See below for more ways to help.)

Juliana started the all-volunteer organization in 2009, in response to the economic downturn when people suddenly found themselves out of work and unable to buy feed for their horses. Her mission was to help people maintain their horses until they found work and could afford to buy hay again, ensuring that those horses would not become unwanted.

Since then, CHF has also found itself helping Colorado horse owners affected by disasters such as the 2012 High Park Fire in Larimer County and the 2013 Black Forest Fire in El Paso County.

But 2013 has thinned CHF resources. After taking over hay assistance after the Black Forest Fire, CHF helped more than 170 families and 525 horses completely burned out.

CHF has now established a donation receiving and distribution center in the heart of the region affected by the flood.

“A lot of the horse people in this area make their livelihood with horses,” she explained. “They are not hoarders when they say they are trying to evacuate or feed 30 horses. Those horses are in training or are competitors or breeders. And they are calling to say their hay is gone.”

In many cases, she pointed out, what hay they had has been ruined by floodwaters. In addition, what hay there might have been available for purchase in the area is also ruined – there isn’t hay nearby to buy.

Juliana stresses that their purpose is to “lend a helping hand” to horse owners who find themselves in a bind, not to become a welfare state of free hay.

“There are people in serious need who aren’t going to get out of this within the next week. That’s who we want to focus on,” she said, “people who have no other resource right now. A lot of them are people who thought that they were prepared, and found out that they weren’t.”

She added, “One woman who called said they went through all their hay and they managed to salvage 20 bales out of 400. And the bottom of the bales looked like they were covered in snow, but it was mold …. (Hot, moldy) hay is combustible.”

Juliana stressed that even as the flood waters recede, the problem of getting hay to livestock doesn’t go away.

“You might see a field with some big puddles, and it might look perfectly normal, and the grass is gorgeous because now it’s very green,” she described. “You might not think there’s a problem.

“But if you step on those beautiful pastures, you can sink to your knees. The horses can’t be in that for very long or their feet will rot. Non-horse people don’t understand that.

“With some people … we can’t give them big bales because the ground is too unsteady and we can’t get trucks in there to take big bales. Some have horses on higher ground … but trying to get the hay across the lower (sodden) ground to get to them, they have to take bales two at a time … and even put bales in a canoe and carry it across (water). It’s pretty wild.”

She added: “There are areas that are not as hard hit and are perfectly normal, but you look over (across the road) and ask, ‘Is that a lake?!’ It’s hit or miss, but where it hit, it hit hard and bad.”

She paused and added, “It’s going to go on for months. We’re happy to have this Northern Colorado location (to distribute hay from)."

Here’s how to help:

Donate Hay: Call the CHF Hay Hotline – (303) 717-4821 – if you have hay you can donate to the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank.

“We’ll take hay of all types and sizes, plus grain,” Juliana said. “We are happy for anything. We have Skid-steers that we can use to handle big bales.”

Volunteer Time – CHF also needs volunteer help of all kinds, in unloading hay, making deliveries, etc.

“If we get a big donation, like a trailer-load, I need time to get volunteers to unload it,” Juliana said. “Now we know to ask ahead of time if we need to gather help to unload it.”

Give Money – you can donate online at www.horsefoodbank.org; or mail a check care of Horse Care Program, 5178 South Elk Ridge Road, Evergreen, CO, 80439.

Donate to “Hay Bales & Horse Tales” – Looking ahead, CHF's annual fundraiser and barbecue benefit, Hay Bales & Horse Tales, is from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. September 28 at Lucky Penny Ranch, 5801 Bluebell Lane, Evergreen, Colorado. The evening features hors d’oeuvres, live music, dinner and wine, and an auction of donated items.

“Having people come to our event would be fabulous,” Juliana said. “Or, if someone has donation items that we can use for our auction – artwork, equipment, anything like that - we’d be grateful.”

Shortly after the Black Forest Fire, attendees from the 2013 American Horse Publications Annual Seminar donated a truckload of product to CHF for its fundraising auction

Funds raised through the event’s ticket sales and the silent auction items go directly to assist with hay purchases. Purchase tickets online at www.horsefoodbank.org.

Need help in Colorado? If you are in need of assistance, go to the CHF website at www.horsefoodbank.org, or call (303) 670-1474.