The Incredible Rescue Of Katrina's Horses

The Incredible Rescue Of Katrina's Horses

On August 29, 2005, the United States suffered one of the nation's worst natural disasters when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. In the midst of the uncertainty and chaos was born the largest equine rescue ever.

Recently, a happy ending to one of those rescues has been doing the rounds via email. The story of Molly The Pony and her artificial leg. It’s a feel good story that gives you faith in the goodness of life.

At the time of the Katrina Disaster however animal owners fleeing the Hurricane's onslaught and those that were evacuated after, were forced to leave behind their animal companions (horses, dogs, cats) by rescue agencies who refused to take the animals with them. Such was the resulting public outcry in the months following the disaster that the government created new laws that would force disaster management organisations such as FEMA to include domestic animals in their emergency disaster management planning.

At the time of the Katrina Disaster however, animal rescue was the sole province of animal welfare groups, university vet centres and volunteers.

Horses Of The Storm author Ky Mortensen, Director of Advancement for the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, one of the key rescue organisations and centres for animals affected by the hurricane, has collected together these stories of the horses he and his team encountered in the aftermath of Katrina.

Horses of the Storm, published by Eclipse Press, is the inspiring first-hand account of how the Louisiana State University's Equine Rescue Team saved hundreds of horses and other animals in southern Louisiana from the devastation following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Horses of the Storm is a collection of gripping and ultimately inspiring first-hand accounts of dramatic rescues, failed attempts, and joyful reunions. Mortensen says the reason he wrote the book was to try and capture the experience in all of its rawness before it was forgotten. When Katrina hit, so many things happened over such a short period of time and things were changing so quickly, that when it was all said and done I wanted to have our own horse rescue experience permanently documented so that we didn't forget our own stories, and so that we would be able to share the experience with others.

In a way you get the feeling Ky Mortensen has written the book as a means of processing what he and his team experienced. He says he hopes people remember the shock stories and the unbelievables, these are things that tend to stick with a person; the strange stuff you know, things you haven’t already heard a dozen times. These are the things no one ever wants to have to experience themselves.

He thinks some of the book, the photos, may be tough for people to read or look at. I know there is at least one [photo] that will be hard to understand and impossible to forget, he says.

One of the stories that sticks with Mortensen the most is the incredible survival tale of the New Orleans Carriage Horses (See Saving the New Orleans Carriage Horses). He says, as far as the horses go, I was particularly attached to the carriage horses. I didn't even personally rescue a carriage horse, but knowing their daily role in life and the chaos they had endured in the inner most parts of New Orleans and then having them at Lamar Dixon was just really special to be able to lend a hand to those big guys that cart the world around New Orleans and help to give so many a taste of the south.

I still see them now, in fact I was just in New Orleans last weekend and there was a mule and then a carriage horse and then another mule, they were everywhere, hooked up to wagons, back at work in the Quarter. They seemed happy and looked like things were getting back to normal for them. It was good to see the carriage businesses return and to see so many carriages filled with tourists.

{sidebar id=3}Mortensen says although he was not thankful for the experience he is glad for the lessons it taught us and I was proud to be part of the rescue process and to see the good work that so many people tried to do to help out during the aftermath of the storm.

Asked if he thinks Horses Of The Storm is his best work or if he will write another book - he is also the author of the acclaimed Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul - he replies, Oh I think our best is always still somewhere inside us. Besides, I would hate to think that I've already outdone myself with one book. So yes, I will write more books. I don't know how soon, but another book will surely come along.

In addition to the collection of essays, Horses of the Storm contains a disaster-preparedness guide for horse owners. Mortensen feels it is paramount that people prepare a disaster plan that includes their animals. If someone is preparing for an emergency, then they're already doing the most important part - prepare, period. Emergency's are so varied and can come in so many different forms; there isn't really a #1 rule that would encompass everything. Just being conscious enough of your surroundings and responsible enough to make a good plan that can be beneficial to you and your animals in an emergency is the main thing.

Horses Of The Storm by Ky Mortensen (ISBN: 978-1-58150-185-8) is available via or

See the Book Review for Horses Of The Storm