a white horse standing alongside a truck full of hay
Photo by Ocala Horse Alliance

Marion County, Florida, is known for having a large number of horses and ponies. Residents have a deep and abiding affection for horses.

But when COVID-19 hit the county earlier this year, many horse owners found themselves suddenly unemployed and in serious financial straits. They worried that they would have to sell or give away their horses and that the animals might ultimately end up purchased by “kill buyers” for the overseas horsemeat market.

a man standing alongside several bales of hay and bags of horse feed
In the wake of the pandemic, a coalition of equine enthusiasts in Florida provided hay and feed assistance to help keep horses with their families. Photo by Ocala Horse Alliance

“The stories and fears of horse owners were truly heart-wrenching,” says Ellie Trueman, a horse owner and board member of the Ocala Horse Alliance, a coalition of equine enthusiasts and industry professionals in Marion County. So Trueman spearheaded an effort to find a temporary solution until owners were able to get back on their feet financially.

The OHA set up the Emergency Feed Fund for Horses, soliciting donors and applicants through social media and local news stories. Nearly 100 people contributed to the fund, including one couple who donated their government stimulus checks.

By the time the program ended in mid-August, more than 270 hay and feed vouchers had been distributed to owners, who redeemed them at a local feed store.

And the OHA received numerous messages that revealed how much a little help during hard times can mean to people and animals.

The OHA set up the Emergency Feed Fund for Horses, soliciting donors and applicants through social media and local news stories.

“My husband and I are just so relieved. … This voucher allows us to keep our daughters’ two ponies. They love them. … Thank you so much,” one recipient wrote.

“I was thinking I was going to have to sell or rehome my two horses. It would crush me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” wrote another.

A husband and wife who lost their jobs and were struggling to feed their two beloved horses while awaiting unemployment checks wrote, “Your assistance is a godsend.”

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