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Few situations are more terrifying than an oncoming wildfire seemingly intent on consuming all in its path. October’s headlines spoke of the loss from California wildfires that leveled towns and took lives of both people and animals. This year’s fires were the worst in state history. Insurance data reports that from Oct. 6 to Oct. 25, eight counties in Northern California were hit by a devastating outbreak of wildfires which led to at least 23 fatalities, burned 245,000 acres and destroyed over 8,700 structures. The California Department of Insurance said that as of Oct. 26, losses reported from 15 major insurers totaled $3.3 billion.

When the heat is on, volunteers step up, using what resources are available to assist. In the case of Marcy Goodman, the longtime Project Manager for the Western States Horse Expo, that meant using all means possible to reach people who could help as well as those in need.

Even though the major fires were hundreds of miles away, Goodman knew she had to do something — quickly. Miki Nelsen, owner of Western States Horse Expo, gathered staff for ideas and immediately sent an email broachcast to the Horse Expo community, asking for help for the fire victims and their animals.

“We weren’t asking for money, but were asking people to ‘circle the wagons’, load their trailers, trucks and cars with horse feed, pipe panels, hay, t-posts, fencing wire — everything needed for displaced animals,” said Nelsen.

Itemsbegan flowing in, including donations — two local retailers, Douglas Feed in Granite Bay and Lee’s Feed in Shingle Springs, stepped up and offered steep discounts for people who were taking supplies to the fires.

“These retailers were amazed by the amount of donations from those who couldn’t travel, but wanted to help,” Nelsen said. “I was overwhelmed by the generosity of people from across the country. They donated tens of thousands of dollars directly to the participating feed stores for this mission.”

Those funds helped pile up needed supplies onto a line-up of trailers and trucks, and volunteers went to work.

“I cannot emphasize how proud I am of my staff and their willingness to take action and get into the trenches,” Nelsen said. “I’m also deeply humbled to see that people trusted Western States Horse Expo without question.”

Local retailers weren’t the only ones who reached out. Mary’s Tack and Feed from Del Mar shipped items to the Western States Horse Expo office for fire victims. Cavallo Horse and Rider shipped a huge amount of new halters from Canada. Masterson Equine Services in Idaho called in a large cash donation to Douglas Feed so trucks could be loaded with supplies.

“A significant number of people who chose to be anonymous sent donations so we could pick up necessary items,” says Goodman. “The horse community really rallied to help.”

Those who showed up with trucks and trailers included trainer Isidro Espinoza from Loomis, who, along with his wife Amber, organized the loading of supplies and headed the truck caravan to the fire victims.

RAM Trucks reached out, creating a stunning advertisement that asked the “good people of the Ram Nation” to help the fire victim horses and people — whether still evacuated or returned home. The ad directed people to the Horse Expo office so they could be a part of this incredible effort. This community outreach spanned from individuals to local and national retailers to a huge corporation.

“It shows how much horse people care about each other,” said Nelsen, who said her team’s initial intention was to send the caravan of assistance to the ravaged Santa Rosa area. However, those plans changed with a phone call.

“I answered the phone, hoping it was another volunteer,” remembers Marcy. “But it was a woman from the Redwood fire area in Mendocino County. She was crying, saying that all the news headlines and television features were about the Santa Rosa fires, and that the horse people in Mendocino were desperate for help.”

Plans changed in that moment, and the caravan of trucks, trailers and cars headed for Mendocino and the Sonoma and Ukiah fairgrounds.

“When our ‘horse supply brigade’ arrived, we were welcomed with open arms,” Marcy said. “It was so apparent that they needed exactly what we had brought and we made sure it got into the right hands. To say it was a heartwarming moment is an understatement.

“Horse people are unique in that they not only have an interest in common, they share a lifestyle and mutual bond that’s almost invincible,” she addded. “That was apparent when people who were simply on a Western States Horse Expo email database responded with such determination and generosity to help fellow horse people in need.”

The Western States Horse Expo holds two events each year. Horse Expo Pomona, which will be held March 9-11, 2018 at the L.A. COunty Fairplex, and the Sacramento event scheduled June 8-10 at Cal Expo.

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