Hurricane Florence

While horse owners in the Mid-Atlantic states brace for Hurricane Florence’s arrival, just how—or if—the storm will affect the 2018 Fédération Equestre Internationale World Equestrian Games (WEG), getting underway in North Carolina today, remains uncertain.

Slated to take place Sept. 11-23 at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, in Mill Springs, WEG has drawn some 800 horses and riders from the world over to compete for championships in eight disciplines.

The weather became a concern for WEG managers and competitors when the National Weather Service (NWS) declared Florence a Category 4 hurricane expected to bring high winds, heavy rains, and widespread flooding to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia sometime later this week.

In a Sept. 10 written statement WEG managers said the Games currently remain on schedule.

“According to the update from the NSW, ‘the currently forecast track of Florence keeps the WEG site well west of the circulation center,’ ” the statement said. “The NSW has warned of ‘numerous thunderstorms throughout the upcoming week.’ ”

Still, the impending storm has convinced some North Carolina owners to evacuate their animals from the path of potential danger early. Randleman, North Carolina-based trainers Julia Farmer Lyons and her husband, Michael Lyons, have already received a pair of horses that were evacuated to their farm. The pair are slated to attend WEG but intend to leave ahead of the hurricane’s landfall.

“It’s looking like we will be coming home Thursday and Friday to attend to our horses here and to ride the storm out with them,” Julia Farmer Lyons said.

Likewise, Elizabeth Steed, founder of the Livestock and Equine Awareness and Rescue Network, in Ravenel, South Carolina, has already evacuated the rescue’s 30 horses to destinations well inland.

“People are asking us why we evacuated so soon,” she said. “We can’t afford to take a chance.”

While the NWS continues to track the storm, equestrian communities throughout the region are networking to provide everything from transportation to longer term relocation for displaced horses. Their response to the emergency is encouraging, said Steed.

“This (weather event) can be devastating, especially if when people’s homes are destroyed,” she said. “It’s a time for the equestrian community to come together and help one another.”