I didn’t sleep well Wednesday Night, I am a natural born worrier and it was raining so hard I thought we were in the middle of a monsoon. It was one of those rains that usually only lasts a few minutes, and it went on for hours. I was terrified about what that amount of rain would bring in the morning. I was shocked though when I went out to the barn to feed at 5 AM and it was not flooding. I expected at least the pastures to be full of water, but they were not. However, at 7 AM we knew we were in for it, the rain was coming down hard again and the water had started to flow south toward us.
We did not think about evacuating at that point because we did not think the barn would flood, it sits higher on the property and has never flooded before in the 15 years we have been here. We were more concerned at that point about saving our cellar (power, furnaces, and water heaters for the house are located there) and the office where my parent’s two companies operate out of. These are closer to the pond on our property and sit lower. The water was coming in so fast, it was unreal, the pastures in 3 hours had 3 feet of water in them; by 8 AM it was pretty clear we were sunk. Unfortunately, our road has a dip in it, and the water was too high to get a trailer through, the only way to get out was to start wading; it was scary at this point and it had just began.
I told my sister, Alison, and the two guys who work for us that we needed to take the yearlings and the pregnant mare first because the water was rising and the current was getting even faster. One of the yearling colts was swept off of the road, I almost had a heart attack right then; thankfully Martin Flores was able to get him back up the road. Thank god, they are so well behaved and we got them to our community barn across the street safely; they generously allowed us to bring some of them there. At this point my mom, dad, and little brother, Jordan, had grabbed another 4 and we met them halfway back. My mom said she had called 911 and they were sending boats but they were going to take awhile. Alison, Jordan, and I jumped on bareback in halters and leads (Jordan jumped on a 4 yr. old, who was amazing); I was ponying a pony who struggled so hard he almost pulled me off backward. By the time we got them over to the barn, the water was too high to walk through and we were the only ones over there. We called my dad and he said there was no way to get us, “start swimming.” I was terrified about the rest of the horses making it out. So we did, we basically swam back to our farm in the freezing cold, nasty water full of debris, and snakes. As we were swimming down the driveway towards home, we were greeted by the most wonderful of surprises.
The world’s best neighbors at Northern Tradition Farm (A Saddlebred Farm) down the road from us who were not flooding had come over to help evacuate our horses. Our vet’s at Premier Equine and our feed store owner at Brother’s Supply had also come to help; it was unbelievable the help we were getting. We had 21 to evacuate; including 7 stud colts, 1 pregnant mare, and 3 yearlings! I could not believe how fast the water had risen in that short time we were gone; we later found out the horses farther to the north of us were tied to trees with just their heads sticking out by the time they were able to be evacuated.
I grabbed a two year old colt who was wild from my dad and started taking him down to Northern Traditions. When we got them all to Northern Traditions about a mile and a half away safely, our vet Dr. Yanchik called around to find us a barn where the last 13 horses could be moved to until they could go home. Autumn Lane Farm about 35 minutes from us was so generous and allowed us to move in for a few days; Bob and Tom the owners of Northern Traditions started trucking the horses over. It was scary going though because most of the roads around us were closed. Alison and our guys went to this farm to get those horses settled in.
It was now about 2:30 PM. I also found out at this point that our three dogs (2 Irish Wolfhounds, 1 Bernese Mountain Dog) had gone out in a canoe down to Northern Traditions.
I tried to get back over to the farm to see my mom and the farm whom I had not seen since the morning. Instead, our other vet Dr. Powers and I were able to get a rescue boat to take us to Ellis House to check on that farm and our 8 horses there; nobody had been there since morning and we were worried that barn was going to start flooding. The water was only 10 feet from the barn door, but we made the decision and hoped and prayed we were doing the right thing by leaving them there; the water they would have had to swim out of was 5 ft. high and they were already tired from their earlier journey.
When the rescue team got us back to the road, I decided I would go home and check on my mom, the house, and the farm. Luckily, one of the county workers had a big farm tractor and told me he would give me a ride the ½ mile home. I had no idea what I was in for! Our basement was completely full of water, the windows had caved in, if it had gone up another inch or two our first floor would have started to flood. The barn had 2 ½ feet of water completely throughout, and our jumps were floating down the road. We had no power, or water, and no way of getting out. My dad, mom, little brother, and I stayed at the farm. When I got home, I immediately changed as I have never been so colt and wet in my life; I could not stop shaking.
However, I was not yet done. At about 4 PM my dad, my mom’s business partner, and I started to canoe over to the barn across the street to feed those horses their dinner. They had not been over there and did not believe me when I said how high the water was. We made it safely and fed them; and were so lucky to find the barn had not yet flooded. The fun was yet to come!! On our way back through the fields, we flipped the canoe in 5 feet deep of water in the middle of a field. We thought we were going to drown. Luckily, one of the community barn volunteers had just jet boated over and they were able to pick us up and take us home.
Finally, we could all change into clean dry clothes and try to get warm. We were all exhausted, and defeated, my mom had been on the phone all afternoon finding out insurance would not cover anything, and there was more destruction than ever thought possible. The single greatest thing was that everybody animals, people, and all were completely safe. It was one of the hardest, most scary days of my life but it really brought a smile to my face and made me realize how lucky we are to have had so many people jump in to help us, and it was only the beginning.