Staff at Circle Bar B Guest Ranch and Stables were amazed as they saw strangers with horse trailers pull into their ranch off Refugio Road in Goleta. The helping hands — or more importantly, trailers — were sent by the Santa Barbara Equine Assistance and Evac Team Inc, or Equine Evac for short.
It took from around 3-10 p.m. Monday for ranch hands to evacuate 57 horses, but Circle Bar B staff member Joe Rolak estimates it would have taken four times as long to leave the ranch without Equine Evac’s help.
“They bring our risk level down so much with all their help,” he told the News-Press.
Equine Evac is a volunteer organization, born out of the 1990 Painted Cave Fire, which assists owners of large animals in emergencies.
The animals are housed at Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara County Animal Services activated Equine Evac around 3 p.m. Monday, and 24 hours later, 47 animals were in stalls at Earl Warren with 18 more on their way.
Monday night, 10 sworn-in Equine Evac volunteers assisted. There are a total of 50 sworn-in members and 10 board members.
Ranch hands spent the night at the showgrounds, watching the horses.
Grace Reilly watched the horses overnight and finally watched them settle down just under 24 hours after evacuation. Circle Bar B’s horses are accustomed to roaming in pasture, so standing in the stalls is out of their routine.
She said they can pick up on the stress even though they didn’t encounter any flames.
Equine Evac requests owners’ help. The horses need food, water, and the stalls should be clean for the animals. Some animals need medication to calm down.
Many of the animals in the stalls Tuesday were from commercial ranches rather than individual residences.
Usually volunteers sleep in a second trailer they call the “Hilton,” but it was not yet on site Tuesday afternoon.
During the Thomas Fire, there were 1,300 animals at Earl Warren. Equine Evac volunteers slept on cots for weeks.
All volunteers must be sworn-in by the county because of liability concerns.
Equine Evac is currently fundraising to renovate the livestock facilities at Earl Warren, a facility the nonprofit does not own. It has completed $800,000 in renovation to stadiums and plans to modernize the barns next.
Before each renovation, volunteers check the mid-century stalls for any safety concerns and mark off which stalls shouldn’t be occupied.
For livestock evacuation resources, go to sbequineevac.org/resources.
Equine Evac’s emergency evacuation line is (805) 892-4484.