While much of the nation is dealing with severe drought conditions, Mother Nature unleashed torrential rain in Houston last week. The heavy storms and steady rainfall caused flooding in several suburban areas of the city, including Cypress, Texas.
Yvette Roney is a riding instructor at the Cypress Rosehill Equestrian Center, located on Cypress Rosehill Road. Formerly known as the Vickers Farm, a breeding and training farm for Arabian horses, the facility has 120 stalls and was 75% full at the time of last week's flooding. The equine occupants included Thoroughbreds, Arabians, show horses, yearlings, a goat and even a 30-year-old Shetland pony named "Julien".
Located close to Cypress Creek, there is always the danger in that area that heavy rainfall can cause the creek to leave its banks. The watch began Thursday afternoon, and Roney and the other owners scrambled to make arrangements should evacuation be necessary. Roney is clocker at Sam Houston Race Park, about 16 miles away from the center. Calls were made to the track and when Andrea Young, president and chief operating officer, was made aware of the horses needing refuge, she gave her approval.
A wild 24 hours followed. Despite heavy rainfall through Thursday, on Friday morning Roney and the rest of the horse owners were hopeful that the water would rescind when the sun peeked through. Everyone pitched in to dig trenches to aid drainage, but to no avail. In a forceful and frightening turn of events, both sides of Cypress Rose Hill began to take on water and the riding ring and stalls began to flood.
"Our pony was practically floating and his goat and companion was cowering in the corner of the stall," recalled Roney. "I knew we were in trouble and had to evacuate."
What could have resulted in horrific consequences was averted due to the cooperation of Sam Houston Race Park and a focused effort from determined owners and volunteers to safely evacuate all of the horses.
"You are never prepared for that," admitted Roney. "We were leading horses out of the barns, sometimes two at a time in waste-high water. There were snakes and the footing was very uncertain."
But one thing was never in doubt. The motivation and cooperation of everyone involved to ensure a successful rescue effort.
"We just said let's load them up," said Roney. "It didn't matter whose trailer was there; if there was room, horses were loaded. The only goal was to get them to safety."
All told, 90 horses, a goat and pony were safely evacuated to Sam Houston Race Park. There were relatively few injuries; a few scrapes and some of the horses drank the flood water and had diarrhea.
As conditions improve and the horses are being transported back to Cypress Rosehill Equestrian Center, Roney took the time to reflect and give thanks.
"We owe tremendous gratitude to Sam Houston Race Park for their help," said Roney. "This is not the first time they have opened their stable area to area horses in a time of need and we are very appreciative."
Live racing concluded at Sam Houston Race Park on May 19, and Young was pleased that the track could offer its support.
"We were happy to open the Sam Houston Race Park barn area to assist the local area stable impacted so severely by recent flooding," said Young. "Many former racehorses have found new careers in the show ring or trail riding. It was a simple decision for us to offer stalls and shelter."
Roney cannot count the many volunteers and supporters that came through from the onset of the crisis. She cites horse owners, her students and their parents, friends and horse lovers that brought food, water and supplies. Her husband, Chris, and their two children, Sierra, 15, and Declan, 11, were there every step of the way.
"One thing this experience has taught me is that you can never underestimate people's love and support and the power of teamwork," stated Roney. "I am so proud of everyone at our riding club. Sierra was involved up to her eyeballs every day. It was heartwarming to see how many people cared."
Property damage occurred and Cypress Rosehill Equestrian Center took hits in the tack room and with hay and feed that could not be moved due to rising waters. The public is encouraged to help and donations can be made at Paypal @ Cypress-Rosehill Emergency Recovery or Chase Bank Savings Donation Acct. 301972905. Updates will also be posted on sneakawayriding.com