After the destruction caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, several equine organizations banded together to establish the Caribbean Equine Relief Fund to offer immediate support to commercial and private equestrian operations in need. The initiative was jointly launched by Equestrian Canada, US Equestrian, the Pan American Equestrian Confederation and the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation.
Mark Samuel, co-organizer of the initiative and chair of FEI Group IV, explained that approximately $200,000 USD has been raised so far. Half of the money has already been spent on feed, medical and building supplies, plus basic tack and equipment, which has been, or will soon be, shipped to islands including Tortola, St Croix, St John, St. Maarten, Barbuda and St Thomas. The group is also working indirectly in Puerto Rico through Caribbean Thoroughbred AfterCare, who have agreed to target both sport horses and Thoroughbreds in their relief efforts on the island.
Eve van den Bol, president of the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation, is working tirelessly to identify stables on each island and determine what they need. She said they have already sent full shipping containers to St. Maarten, St Croix and Tortola and the next shipment of feed and supplies is due for St Thomas and St John.
Van den Bol has made contacts throughout the Caribbean islands, including veterinarians, stable owners, humane society representatives and some government officials, through word of mouth and social media. All of these people are working together to locate horses and donkeys in need, and to offer life-saving support as those horse owners affected by the devastating storms struggle to rebuild their lives with little, to no resources.
“On every island, their primary source of income is tourism,” said van den Bol. “Some will bounce back quicker than others in their efforts to rebuild and reopen, but we fear that on those islands where nothing is happening yet, where they have no source of income, that people will be forced to neglect or abandon their horses.”
It is hoped the Caribbean Equine Relief Fund can help to prevent this worst-case scenario, by offering ongoing support as the immediate need moves to toward helping those affected rebuild. As van den Dol noted, these are small islands whose governments must first care for their human citizens. While they do this, she said, “our goal is to save as many horses as we can.”
The best way for Canadians to help is by donating funds via www.equestrian.ca/donate, and to spread the word.
A major boost to these efforts was announced last week by the Jump Canada Hall of Fame, also chaired by Samuel. The committee decided to postpone their annual celebration to instead focus on raising funds for this initiative.
The gesture was supported by BMO Financial Group, the Hall of Fame’s title sponsor since its inception, which generously pledged a leadership donation of $25,000.
“We are humbled by the support and generosity shown by our long-time partner, BMO Financial Group, our great friend in horses and humanity,” said Samuel. “The support offered through its leadership gift is indicative of the overwhelming support shown by the equestrian community since the creation of the Caribbean Equine Relief Fund was announced. We encourage all of our loyal Hall of Fame sponsors and table and ticket buyers to join BMO in contributing to this important initiative during our off-year, as help is still so desperately needed.
“We thank everyone for their understanding and support, and are committed to staging an even bigger and better Jump Canada Hall of Fame event in 2018 to celebrate the wide-ranging accomplishments of our Canadian hunter and jumper industry.”