When Hanaeleh moved to our current facility about 10 years ago, there were a handful of pipes and shelters left on the property from the owner that we were able to utilize. They weren’t in the best condition, but they were useable for the time being. Over the years, however, we have been able to change out the older pipes for newer ones. The only exception, however, was the shelter that covered Ulysses’, Quixote’s and Lou Dillon’s stalls. There were two 24′ shelters that were joined together, so it was one large 48′ shelter.
When we first moved onto the property, we secured the shelter with new poles, but otherwise it was just too large, too heavy, and quite frankly, too costly, to replace. There were also large logs in the stalls that the horses had to step up over, that we would have liked to remove, but they were much too large (and heavy!) for us to move manually. We wanted to revamp the stalls, but, again- there was just no way to go about doing that unless we took everything down, which would have been incredibly difficult.
But then nature intervened.
A few weeks ago I received a text around 6:00 in the morning from Javier (who helps take care of the ranch). The text said that a large windstorm had blown the shelter over that night. I didn’t really understand what he meant, so he texted me a few pictures, which didn’t look that bad, actually- it just looked like a pole kind of bent.
I ascertained that, thankfully the shelter blew AWAY from the stalls, so the horses were all safe, albeit a little stressed (this did not affect their appetite, however- they do have their priorities!). I honestly thought that we would just have to replace a pole and everything would be back to normal.
When I went down to investigate, however, I realized that the pictures he had sent did not accurately reflect what had actually happened.
When I walked up to the stalls, I was, quite honestly, horrified. The shelter over Quixote’s and Lou Dillon’s stall had literally ripped off of two of the poles, and picked the other poles up out of the ground, tearing them out of the cement.
Thankfully the shelter blew away from the stalls, crashing into the tree next to our restroom and tearing down the fence there.
Because both of the shelters were joined, the shelter over Ulysses’ stall also blew over, bending the poles in the front of the stall in half, and pulling the poles inside of the stall out of the ground entirely. Besides the fact that the shelters were blown over, the horses could not be taken out because the shelter was blocking the gates.
Hanaeleh volunteers to the rescue!
I did the only thing I could think of doing: I called every volunteer I thought could come and help. And, like the dedicated and incredibly awesome people they are, they came. Dave (who lives in the canyon and is our go-to guy whenever we have an emergency) came out with his tools, which was a lifesaver.
Lisa, our massage therapist, stood with Lou Dillon and kept him calm while we were taking the shelter down.
In all, we had over a dozen people come down to help deal with the shelter… but what were we going to do? It was too large and ungainly to move- both shelters together weighed over a thousand pounds. Whenever we tried working on one shelter, the other shelter moved, and we were concerned the entire thing would come crashing down and hurt someone. After about an hour, a plan was finally created.
The first goal was to try to make the shelters less heavy so they could more easily be braced and then moved. We started by taking off the metal sheeting on the shelters, moving it out of the way.
Once the sheeting was removed, we were able to brace the shelters with poles and wood so we could separate them. When they were separated, however, we then had to either remove or manually saw off the pipes that had been holding them up… some were partially torn off but were still attached to the shelter. A few pipes were sticking straight up into the air, the concrete still attached to them. It took a few hours to just remove the sheeting and free the shelter from the attached pipes.
Finally, even though the shelters were lighter, they were still hundreds of pounds, and it took all of us to move each shelter over by the arena where they would not be in the way. When the shelters and sheeting were secure, we looked to the stalls to make sure that there was nothing left in the stalls that the horses could hurt themselves on. Again, we were very thankful that most of the damage was done to the pepper tree outside of the stalls, which prevented the shelters from doing any further destruction.
Assessing the damage 24 hours later: rebuilding
The next day, we assessed the damage done to the shelters. Even though the shelters were made of sturdy galvanized pipe, they were literally torn apart in multiple areas. We determined that it would be safer to purchase new shelters rather than try to fix the old ones.
When we looked at the stalls, we discovered that not only had there been some damage from the shelters, but it also exposed the fact that the pipes were also in disrepair and should be replaced. We realized that we had the opportunity to revamp the stalls- if we were going to have to spend the money to purchase new pipes and shelters, we could also raze the stalls and make the entire area extra-safe for the horses. All that was required was several thousand dollars, a tractor, and a lot of manpower…none of which we really had.
We are very thankful for our network of support, who has helped so many times, and who continues to help us now. L.A.P.D. Officers Yanez and Dibell, the officers who saved Lou Dillon, took up a small collection and was able to help raise some money to pay for Lou’s shelter.
Two of our volunteers, Dan and Susan, generously contributed as well, so we felt that we should invest the money into improving the area. Although they were very generous, this entire project cost us much more than we originally thought – it was close to $5,000.
As far as not having a tractor, that was partially true- the owner of the property has a tractor, but the power steering was broken. Still, he offered to try to fix the power steering to help level out the area and take the logs out of the area.
We were able to get some DG (decomposed granite) delivered to put into the stalls. We moved the horses around so everyone had a safe place temporarily, and Lori (our treasurer) and her husband Ken took down the stalls and moved all of the mats!
After the stalls were taken down, the next day, with the help of the tractor, we got the logs out, but then it started raining on us, so the more the tractor tried to grade the area, the deeper it sunk into the dirt. The power steering also gave out, so we finally had to stop and wait for the area to dry. It seemed as if elements in the universe were conspiring against us.
Just to make things more complicated (hard to believe, right?), we ordered the pipes and shelters from a local company, but because of COVID-19, the business was not considered essential in California, and was shut down. Thankfully, they were able to ship the pipes and shelters in from another state, but they also had to find an outside driver to haul them in. We were finally able to get everything a week or so late, but it just added one more level of difficulty to this entire project.
Rain is great, but sometimes it isn’t.
A few days later, with the tractor power steering fixed, the rest of the area was graded. The tractor moved some DG into the area, but because of the continued rain, we did not move the DG around the stalls. That, unfortunately, ended up being something we had to do one shovelful at a time.
If you’ve ever tried to move DG, it’s very deceiving. Even a couple shovels full inside a bucket is very heavy.
Building the new stalls
When we started the project, we knew that we would need three things: money, a tractor, and manpower. With the quarantine orders, we could not have our usual workday with 20-30 people, since gatherings could not be more than 10. Therefore, it took every last volunteer shoveling all four yards of that DG to get the stalls completed.
Lori’s husband Ken took the lead on the project (he is AWESOME), but it was only with every single volunteer that we were able to get this done (just a side note, to give a special thanks to Donivan, a friend of volunteer Doris, who also helped us when the original shelters came down).
We moved carefully-measured and sawed railroad ties into the stalls to create a dry area under the shelters for the horses. We shoveled yards of DG into those areas under where the shelters would be, then leveled it and placed mats on top. The mats then all had to be cut to the area in order to make them fit correctly (another endeavor that takes a strong saw and lots of strength). This part, however, was satisfying- seeing the bright new stalls up, the mats all ready for the horses was exciting. We just needed to put the shelters up before we could move horses in!
As we put in the mats we discovered, well – a number of different creatures.
Steve found a few millipedes and played with them for a while. We also found a few scorpions- I named one Harry and Nikki (our Secretary) named one “Stingy.” There were also a number of random bugs, worms and beetles which the chickens enjoyed most readily.
For those that we picked up (yes, even the scorpions), we kindly relocated all of our newly-found creature friends to the wilderness area away from the horses.
Once the areas were laid out, we then had to dig the post-holes to sink in the cement and sleeves that would go inside of the posts. One of our volunteers, Russell, offered to take a day off from work and dig all of the post-holes for the shelters. It was exhausting work, and by the time we were ready to put up the shelters, everyone was so tired. Since we couldn’t have a workday that would bring out dozens of people who would do much of this work, we had to again rely on our volunteers, who were pretty tired. Thankfully, at this point we were almost done.
Time to put up the shelters
The next-to-last but not quite final step was to put up the shelters. Ken again took the lead, and under his direction all of the shelters were put up. The poles were attached to the sleeves in the cement, so they should withstand the elements (I don’t want to challenge nature and say that they can withstand any other windstorm because that’s just asking for trouble!). Barring any unforeseen issues, however, they should last for a very long time.
The very final step was a bunch of little things:
- We had to install new automatic waterers for the horses
- We had to secure the chains for gaits so they wouldn’t fall off
- We had to clean the feeders and put them back up
- We had to put new shavings in for the horses.
None of these tasks individually was very difficult, but we were exhausted, and all of them were necessary and had to be done before we could invite the horses into their new homes. That being said, even though we were all tired, we kept stepping back and and admiring the shelters and how nice and clean everything was.
The horses finally get their new homes!
It was so gratifying to finally put the horses back into their regular stalls. Lou went first, and he quickly sniffed around and looked around his “new” stall. We doubled the area of his previous stall, so now it is 48′ long instead of 24′.
Quixote came next, and he and Lou Dillon talked to each other over the stall, exploring their “new” digs. We also gave them their grain, which made them enjoy their new stalls that much more.
Finally, we walked Ulysses in, who- poor boy- did not really understand what was going on. He has lived in the same stall for several years now, and even though his new stall is in the exact same spot as his previous stall, everything was different. He didn’t really understand why the gate was moved or why he didn’t have to step up to get into his stall, and why there was no log in the middle of his stall. It took him a while to figure everything out, but, just like Quixote and Lou Dillon, he found his grain, and decided that he liked his new stall just fine.
There is no way to give enough thanks to everyone who helped with this project.
We are so grateful for everyone who came out- from the emergency when we had to take down the shelter, to helping to pay for the shelters, to preparing the area, to finally finishing it- SO MANY PEOPLE helped us out. It really highlights the fact that no one does anything in a vacuum- it is only thanks to our huge network of support that we are able to help these horses have a safer place to live. An enormous thank you to everyone who helped make this happen.
Also, a side note- I would like to personally thank Dr. Stewart Adams, who, unfortunately, passed away in February of 2019 at the age of 95. Dr. Adams and his team invented ibuprofen. I am eternally grateful for him, especially after this project!