Camarero Race Track, Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare’s farm, and the larger Thoroughbred farms in Puerto Rico escaped the worst of Hurricane Fiona Sept. 19 because the storm skirted the south side of the island.
The hurricane, however, flooded the west region that is the heart of Puerto Rico’s agriculture industry. Rainfall of more than 25 inches flooded fields and caused more than $100 million in crop damage, including hay, according to multiple reports.
“We were really prepared for this storm,” said Kelley Stobie, a co-founder of Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare. “We purchased a new generator in the summer and just got a container of hay two weeks ago donated by the Humane Society International. But the storm passed over the southwest corner of the island where all the hay farms are, and now we are seeing other people suffering. We won’t see any local hay production for probably three months.”
Puerto Rican breeder/owner Eduardo Maldonado with prominent farm Potrero Los Llanos said the storm caused only minor damage to his farm—downed tree limbs and some fence damage—but he also has talked with a major hay supplier who said the storm has caused a shortage.
“I’ve never seen so much water pouring from the sky and I’ve been on this farm more than 30 years,” he said. “We got 25 inches, and the west coast got more than we did.”
The skies over Puerto Rico have been sunny and blue for four or five days now and shipments have been coming in regularly, so the hay shortage at Camarero should be relatively short-lived. Stobie, however, said she is concerned about the other horses on the island whose owners may not be able to afford the prices of hay being shipped in—even among some of the trainers at the racetrack.
CTA is holding a hay fundraiser, hoping to secure two containers of Coastal Bermuda hay that will cost $7,000 each. The shipping cost of $8,400 for both containers of 700 bales each is already being covered by Trailer Bridge out of Jacksonville, Fla., which donates shipping services to CTA annually. The fundraiser is for the cost of the hay, which is being supplied by Florida-based Southeast Hay. The organization has a tentative $5,000 commitment from the Caribbean Equine Relief Fund, which provided assistance after Hurricane Maria about five years ago, so it is close to covering the hay cost of the first container that is expected to arrive in Puerto Rico Oct. 7. The hope is to have the second container shipped a week later.
“One container is going to be dedicated to Thoroughbreds, so if someone at the track is strapped, we can help out. The other container is for other local horses that aren’t Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses and others used at riding schools and by equine groups. We are not here to stock up your hay room, but we can help,” said Stobie.
Anyone interested in supporting the cause can do so through the CTA donation page on Donately.com.