March 2019 - Rain Wreckage

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Hoof Haven Farm battles creek-turned-raging river during Valentine’s Day storm.

“We’ve lost our battle with the creek,” Teri Cagle posted on the Friends of Fallbrook Facebook page.  And that was the last thing she did on her phone Thursday Feb. 14 as the Valentine’s Day rains swept through her 10-acre equestrian property, Hoof Haven Farm, in San Diego County’s Fallbrook.

The Ostrich creek that normally runs gently through her property had jumped its banks and was streaming through the parking lot, the turn-out ring and toward Hoof Haven’s stalls. “The water was easily above the horses’ knees,” Teri recounts. With rapid speed and filled with debris, the “dangerous force” made a river of the main road, took out the creek crossing to the back half of Teri’s property, two welded wire stalls and the cement-rooted vinyl fencing surrounding the turn-out pen.

Things happened fast as five inches of rain fell in one day. Most of the horses had been moved to an arena on a safe side of the property. One horse in an initially safe paddock was the first to let Teri know that it wasn’t. “A Thoroughbred of mine was just not acting right. She knew something was happening,” Teri explains. “She came to the gait and was shaking.” Just as they moved her out to safety, the creek jumped another bank and gushed toward the large jumping arena near a main stabling area. “That’s when I put out the call to evacuate.”

As with the fires, one call brought ample assistance. “It’s amazing how many people just showed up,” Terri says.  Fourteen horses were taken to safety, with five Minis still stabled safely at the nearby Riders Field a week after the deluge. One pony was swept away in the creek-turned-raging river, but it was hauled out unharmed soon by a few of the many who showed up to help.

The rest of Hoof Haven’s 40 horses are back home, some of them doubled up in stalls until the needed repairs can be made.

Among many heroes that day, Teri’s husband Bill stands out. Retired from a career involving heavy equipment and earth moving, he drove the tractor into the flooding arena and quickly rearranged dirt that had been a jumping bank to shore up the perimeter, turning it into a 200’ by 200’ lake. His quick work – about 15 minutes, Teri estimates—prevented that water from doing even more damage.

As fast as the creek swept through, “the next day the property was back to normal” with the exception of mud and debris everywhere, several places where the foundation of corrals or stalls had eroded away, and less about 1,000 feet of dirt that was carried away.

A week after the deluge, Teri, Bill, friends, family, students and other volunteers had made a good dent in the long haul of getting the property back to normal, but plenty of work remained. A www.gofundme.com page for “Hoof Haven Horses” is already raising donations that will help and Teri is grateful to all.

Along with a hunter/jumper training program that has long reigned in the Greater San Diego Hunter Jumper Association jumper division, Hoof Haven is home to a popular riding school and summer camp program and cares for many horses in all stages of life.

By Kim F Miller