The 2 year-old filly we helped from the San Luis Rey Downs fire!

Earlier this month, I asked for donations to help injured horses from the Southern CA fires.  I didn’t have a specific horse in need, but figured I’d find one easily.

You donated $3300!

Well, it took a while to find a horse to help!  That’s the good news!  I guess the even better news is that Southern California and the world came out in droves to bring supplies, feed, clothes, to raise money and help – in any way they could.  The networking was incredible to witness.Also, GoFUNDme pages were set up for so many of these horses who were injured by the fires.  All great news.

The fire ravaged several barns at San Luis Rey Downs. Many horses were lost – but nearly 500 WERE SAVED!

For us, The Horse and Man Group, I initially found a horse who was horribly burned in the Skirball fire, but he was over funded, if that is even possible, through donations and Go Fund Me and the Humane Society grants.  Dr. Ramey is helping him and this horse is in excellent hands.

So, I then called every equine hospital around the fire areas, and none had horses that needed financial aid.

??  How could this be?  I think that the evacuation network was so strong down there, most all of the horses got out of there after the horrors of the Skirball fire and the San Luis Rey Downs fire.

And then I finally was able to reach San Luis Rey Equine Hospital, which had been closed due to the fires.  Dr. Korin Potenza said they have 11 injured horses in their hospital.  All have received excellent care and these vets have worked above and beyond to help their charges and their clients.

Dr. Potenza told me how difficult this disaster had been for owners/trainers/grooms and some had lost several horses at once.

She stated that although owners and trainers are devastated emotionally, most of these race horse owners didn’t need funds…

…But, there was one filly, who needed to remain anonymous, that could use some help.  Her trainer had lost several horses and he could really, really use some good news.  Our gift would help him tremendously.

So, our December Bucket Fund for the Fire horses goes to this lovely 2 year-old filly.  Dr. Potenza told me that she had horrible burns around (and including) her udder, as well as the obvious wounds on her hind quarters and face.   She will survive, but she will be in the hospital for several more days.  She is less swollen today, but her dead skin needs to slough and heal.

This is our filly, a week after the fires. Her legs are less swollen, but her skin needs to slough for her to be more comfortable. Mane and forelock are gone. Lips and face burned. The worst is at her back end. The flames licked up her legs and burned her inside thighs and udder as well as the skin on her hind.

She was burned up her legs and into her udder. Those injuries are very sensitive and painful. She will survive. THANK YOU for helping her.

Here is a statement from Dr. Potenza:

We currently have 11 horses that we are are treating for severe burns, lacerations, or infected joints. The horses receive 24/7 veterinary care at our hospital. The are treated with IV fluids, anti-inflammatories, pain medications, antibiotics, gastroprotectants, wound care, bandage/dressing changes, treatments specific to their injuries, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and laser therapy. 
All horses in our care are responding well to treatment. Some will be headed back home in the next few days, others will require more long term care. The filly in the picture is a 2 year old thoroughbred who sustained severe burns on both sides of her body, the most severe burns are between her hind legs and involving her udder. The filly when initially taken in had singed most of her coat and tail (superficial surface) but that cleaned up well with careful bathes. Burns tend to swell exponentially in the 24-72 hours following and this filly had some very, very large swollen limbs. She is looking much better now- this is 7 days into treatment, but as you can imagine we have put a lot of supplies and efforts into her…and she is worth it! The owner lost several of her barn mates. We are all so glad she is a survivor and they are so grateful for all of the efforts.  I expect a full recovery. The filly is in great spirits, is cleaning up her feed well, and starting to put weight on. She is getting spoiled on donated carrots. Right now her biggest discomfort is the burns between her hind limbs. She is a trooper.
Please thank everyone for their support. This filly and her owner and trainer deserve all the support they can get.
Korin and Team SLREH
Korin N Potenza, DVM
San Luis Rey Equine Hospital
4211 Holly Lane | Bonsall, CA 92003


I donated by paying down her bill via the Horse and Man Foundation credit card – which has a daily limit.  So today, we gave $2500 –  and will give $800 tomorrow


Click to go to original article

The Lilac Fire that tore across North County killed at least 46 horses at San Luis Rey Downs, transforming a place brimming with life into one devastated by death.

What did San Luis Rey endure in those fateful hours on Dec. 7 as the fire ambushed stalls holding about 450 horses? Animal hide was discovered on an aluminum gate along the track’s inside rail — far from the flames — a jarring sign of the chaos that swirled.

Outside of Barn E, the car of trainer Martine Bellocq was gutted by flames so white-hot that the wheel rims melted into molten puddles as its driver rushed to save as many horses as possible. Bellocq suffered second- and third-degree burns over 50 percent of her body.

Near Barn L, someone jumped from a feed truck to fight the fire before the vehicle was engulfed along an open roadway — reduced to nothing more than frame and axles.

Trainer Peter Miller, who had been working at Los Alamitos, was forced to wait outside San Luis Rey for an hour as police locked down the area. When he finally navigated his way onto the still-burning property, he was stunned by the scene.

“It was like a nightmare,” said Miller, an Encinitas resident who had more than 75 horses stabled at the facility. “Like a living nightmare. Words can’t describe seeing the horses in their stalls. The smoke and the fire were still going. It was surreal.

“It was worse than I ever could have imagined. Much worse.”

The chilling setting horrified Leandro Mora, too. The assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill, who molded Kentucky Derby winners Nyquist and I’ll Have Another, held onto a pair of horses as he coughed and weighed it all through stinging eyes.

“Right then, two horses ran by,” said Mora, a 40-year veteran who paused at the memory. “They were burned from end to end, the hair was gone and they were screaming. That’s the moment when I made the decision to let our horses go.

“That’s going to be in my brain the rest of my life. That’s ugly. Ugly stuff.”

Kevin Habell, San Luis Rey’s general manager, pulled a small, stuffed horse with a handwritten note pinned to it from the back of his truck while touring the charred site Thursday. Workers said the gift was dropped at the gate of the 240-acre facility by a young girl.

May these sweet angels run free around God’s track

So sorry for your loss

Our thoughts and prayers are with you all

Your Bonsall neighbors

“Oh man, I’m going to cry again,” Habell whispered.

The fire burned out. The human spirit? Hardly.

Dr. Potenza with one of her patients.

‘Images will never go away’

So many horses were involved that it quickly became a confusing and overwhelming scene – for humans and animals alike. California Diamond, a Miller-trained star who won nearly $500,000, had been set free during the fire, only to return to his stall and an unwitting death sentence.

“That’s their home,” Miller reasoned. “He was one of the coolest, neatest, kindest, gamest horses I’ll ever have. When I saw him in there, my heart sank.”

The night of the fire, Miller visited neighboring Trifecta Farms. Rumblings circulated that Conquest Typhoon, the 2014 winner of the Del Mar’s Cecil B. DeMille Stakes, had found his way there.

“He was unrecognizable,” said Miller, staring at the ground. “His head was swollen and the hair was singed. It was horrific. Those images will never go away.”

Potenza and Huggons triaged Conquest Typhoon, smothering him in silver-and-white burn ointment and love. Potenza’s sister stayed overnight to feed the horse applesauce and grain-mash soup. On Thursday, he bounced around the edge of hospital stall while gobbling up bananas.

The veterinarians helped walk horses down Camino del Rey to Trifecta Farms. Jumping in proved critical, because blocked roads made it impossible for horse-hauling vehicles to reach the track.

At one point, Potenza and an equine hospital intern drove past a police barricade with lights flashing in pursuit.

“I understand what they were doing,” Potenza said. “They’re worrying about human life first. They said humans were the main concern. I said, ‘Not for us.’ ”

Potenza and the others were able to lead about 100 horses away from the fire that burned so intensely it melted restroom porcelain, meaning the temperature exceeded 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

“If (all involved) don’t react like that, they lose 200 horses,” Del Mar spokesman Mac McBride said.

David Jerkens, Del Mar’s racing secretary, jumped in: “At least.”

“It could have been one of the greatest horse tragedies in the history of this country,” McBride said.

The veterinarians sewed up lacerations under headlamps, leveraging unique detective work to identify horses. They figured out one by pinpointing specific shoeing nails imported from Europe.

“One cool story,” Potenza said. “We had just discharged a little filly with colic that morning. I found her that night, around 10:30, and recognized a catheter incision. She let me lead her all the way back with just bailing twine.”

Yet in that horrible wake, goodness refuses to relent.

Horse owner Joe Ciaglia bought 200 pairs of shoes to give to displaced workers. An anonymous donor cut a check for $28,000, allowing Del Mar employees to hand out $400 envelopes to 70 workers this week.

At the San Luis Rey Equine Hospital, husband-wife veterinarians Korin Potenza and Nick Huggons, who worked without sleep for a night and without power for three, continue donating their services and necessary drugs for fire victims. Trainers Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott and Mark Casse shipped a truckload of horse supplies from the East Coast.

A GoFundMe page launched by Santa Anita’s Stronach Group and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club eclipsed $640,000 by Friday afternoon. The first payouts of $500 were given to 224 workers. Trainers received $600 per each horse affected.

Miller, who lost five horses and one of his two barns, suffered an estimated $600,000 in fire-related losses. The San Luis Rey staple received the largest initial GoFundMe payout of $30,000.

The emotional toll, though, is impossible to calculate.

“In today’s society, where you’ve got racist, misogynist, fake-news (claims), sexual harassment and all kinds of nonsense, there are good people out there,” Miller said. “It’s really heartening to see the goodness and kindness.”

Human toll continues

The fire enveloped trainer Joe Herrick in Barn I as he rushed to save Lovely Finish, a filly who finished second in a race at Del Mar last month — her first race. The final, determined push saved the horse, but left Herrick with second- and third-degree burns over 23 percent of his body.

The flames attacked Herrick’s hands, arms, face and the back of his neck.

“I got burned pretty bad getting her out,” Herrick said Friday from the burn unit at UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest. “I’m under good care, but I’m still in a lot of pain. Because of the pain, my blood pressure skyrockets. But they’re treating that.”

Even as Herrick detailed the additional week or two he’s expected to be in the unit, he finds solace in the life he protected.

“The smoke was so thick and black,” he said. “A couple seconds more and she wouldn’t have had a chance.”

Bellocq was severely burned while putting herself between horses and flames. The French trainer underwent two surgeries this week and is heavily medicated and on a respirator, according to McBride, a spokesman for the family. He said her condition has been upgraded to serious but stable.

Les Baker, who works as an out-rider, continues to recover after being trampled by fleeing horses. He broke nine ribs and suffered facial lacerations while being run over by at least four horses, according to an interview with television station NBC-7/39.

Mora, O’Neill’s assistant, freed 35 horses as the flames whipped.

He, like so many others, refused to walk away.

“It was better to let them go then to watch them charred in a stall,” Mora said. “People say it’s just a business, blah, blah, blah.”

The longtime horseman shook his head.

“No. No way.”

Community provides comfort

The interest in San Luis Rey Downs reached across the globe.

Miller turned down an invitation the morning after the fire to appear on the “Today” show. He also declined an appearance on Australian radio before agreeing to a BBC interview this week.

The tipping point: Miller wanted to explain how many people came to the aid of those in need.

“There were so many heroes,” he said. “The workers at the track, the people at Trifecta Farms. The volunteers have been amazing. Del Mar’s been amazing. There are so many.

“I’ve shed some tears, for sure.”

Del Mar’s Jerkens, the grandson of Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens, showed little surprise at the actions of those at San Luis Rey.

“The fact they stayed around and put the safety of the horses first, that shows what they’re all about,” he said. “The horses are like their children.”

Habell, the San Luis Rey GM, explained how employees did anything they could. Some grabbed dirt out of end-loaders, trying to smother rogue flames by hand. The facility lost nine of its 15 barns and demolition-related costs alone could top $1 million, he said.

In almost every direction, the reminders of that day remain visible.

“It’s like getting beat up and being on the ground and saying, ‘OK, OK, stop,’” Habell said. “Then when you get up, he hits you again.”

Habell smiled as he walked into the Thoroughbred Room, a place where track workers eat and pass the time during their dusty days. The room had filled from end to end with food and supplies from anonymous donors within 24 hours of the fire.

There are towels and shoes, toaster ovens and toothpaste — even bras next to Spanish-language Bibles. The offerings are piled waist high in spots.

A fire led to a heartwarming flood.

“It’s like the Lone Ranger,” Habell said. “I didn’t even get their name.”



The Union-Tribune will provide periodic updates about the impacts of the fire on San Luis Rey Downs. To suggest possible angles or to share information, contact sports columnist Bryce Miller at …


Here are accounts dedicated to helping those affected by the Dec. 7 blaze.

For track workers:

For injured trainer Martine Bellocq:

For injured out-rider Les Baker:

To direct funds to injured trainer Joe Herrick:

Rescuers found little Sven – a 5 month old Virginia range wild mustang colt, almost frozen in an ice filled riverbed. He was stuck in the mud with icy water flowing over him.

Using a hay bale to maintain sternal position. Providing some goat’s milk diluted in warm water.


HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

Post a comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *