Originally created 09/16/99

Hippodrome takes in animal refugees of storm



A half-dozen Scottish terriers corralled in a makeshift pen perked up their large ears and barked in unison Wednesday as a rider on horseback passed within a few yards.

"They've never seen horses before,' said Don Brown, of Ridgeland, S.C. The Brown family and their 30 dogs found shelter Tuesday night along with more than 300 horses, countless other dogs, a burro, a Shetland pony, two potbellied pigs and 200 pairs of birds at the Hippodrome Horse Complex in North Augusta.

Actually, the birds had to go to another barn outside the complex, said Susan Hancock, manager of the Hippodrome, which has turned into a Noah's ark with Hurricane Floyd's approach this week. Normally, the complex is the site of horse shows, with room for 500 horses in several barns.

"We are an evacuation center for South Carolina. We're on the list for people to bring animals in an emergency situation," Ms. Hancock said. "They started coming in Tuesday morning."

She expected at least 50 more horses by Wednesday night.

Tom Galbreath of Hilton Head Island, S.C., tried calling several places looking for a safe haven for his 75 horses and staff before locating the Hippodrome.

On Wednesday, he sat exhausted from a 10-hour drive that ended at 6:30 a.m. at the complex's gates. He was happy to find shelter and overwhelmed by the hospitality and kindness.

"They (emergency management officials) closed the island at 7, and I was still on the island as well as the horses," Mr. Galbreath said. He had to obtain special permission to leave, but he and a staff of 11 with numerous vehicles were able to get all of the horses out in one trip.

Matt Thompson had to make several trips to bring his 25 horses from his stables, Autumns Gate in Ridgeland.

"We got lucky because we know the back roads and avoided some traffic," he said.

Still, the last trip took from 2 to 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, about the normal travel time, he said.

Mr. Thompson is worried about one horse, Lisa, he had to leave behind in the barn surrounded by hay bales.

"She was the odd man out, and she's a Clydesdale," he said, adding that there wasn't enough room for all the horses.

A Clydesdale is one of the smartest breeds and well-tempered enough to survive, Mr. Galbreath and Mr. Thompson said.

"Some of these more pampered ones -- they'd commit suicide," said Mr. Thompson, nodding toward a championship barrel horse.

The trip was hard on the animals as well as their owners, Ms. Hancock said.

"That was the hard part, being hauled here in all the traffic," especially when a trip that would normally take three hours lasted nine, she said.

As she walked from the Hippodrome office to one of the barns, a man stopped to ask Ms. Hancock where he might be able to buy medicine for his horse suffering from colic. A veterinarian was coming, but in the meantime suggested he try a particular medicine, he said.

Ms. Hancock has lined up stables and barns in case the Hippodrome runs out of space, she said.

A man who can deliver horse feed is on standby. With each free stall a bag of food is provided too, she said.

"In an emergency situation, we're not charging," Ms. Hancock said.

The Browns arrived Tuesday night in three vehicles loaded with dogs and some personal items, including his 84-year-old mother-in-law's six boxes of photographs, Mr. Brown said.

"She brought six boxes of pictures. She said, `That's all my memories,"' Mr. Brown said.

REACH

Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226.