How more than 90 horses found shelter from Hurricane Irma in N. Fulton

Krissy Wilson loaded up her trucks, grabbed her son and one of his friends, and started charging towards Miami last Wednesday.

From the opposite direction, Hurricane Irma was on her way to the Sunshine State. Wilson, who has been training horses for more than 30 years, had a goal to get as many horses out of the storm’s path as she could.

“I thought that the Homestead and Miami area would get hit the hardest, so I was just trying to get horses out of that area,” said Wilson, a resident of Marietta. “It’s a community, and I just had this really strong feeling I needed to go and that people needed my help.”

Wilson rescued 19 horses from southern Florida. She dropped 10 off at a friend’s farm in Ocala, Florida, and then brought the remaining nine to the Alpharetta Equestrian Center.

But Wilson’s horses aren’t the only hurricane evacuees having a temporary stay in Wills Park. Matt Casey, the center’s manager, said more than 90 horses from Florida and Georgia had come to the center to escape the path of the storm.

READ: A NASCAR track is providing a home for Hurricane Irma evacuees

READ: Hurricane Irma - Synagogue in N. Fulton opens doors to Florida evacuees

Casey, who has been the manager at the center for 14 years, says this isn’t the first time it has transformed into a shelter for horses.

“Pretty much in any natural disaster we try to open our doors,” Casey said. “We had a lot of flooding some years ago and housed more than 150 horses here for more than a month.”

The fear of flooding is what brought Wilson and the horses she is caring for to north Fulton County. She owns Wilson Show Stable in Marietta, but her land is lower and near a creek. The Alpharetta Equestrian Center sits higher up and isn’t as susceptible to floods.

Wilson also brought horses from her facility in Marietta to Alpharetta, along with the ones from Florida.

She says she went to help horse owners because many people don’t have trailers, and it’s not nearly as easy to travel with a horse as it would be with a cat or dog. So, Wilson, her son and a friend went down to Florida with a three-horse and a five-horse trailer, and made runs until they couldn’t drive anymore.

“I wanted to get more, but after three nights of hardly no sleep, I was done,” Wilson said. “Everyone was teary-eyed and so grateful. And I was crying the whole time, just of joy, just being able to help.”

READ: Atlanta Humane Society sending staffers to Houston for disaster relief

READ: Irma in Gwinnett - Winds picking up, downed trees and wires reported

Many folks brought their horses to Alpharetta because, in the wake of Hurricane Irma, the center waived all of its fees and opened up its stables for free to displaced horses. Casey said that local groups and feed stores have also pitched in to offer free or discounted supplies for both horses and humans.

The center also provides power, water and hook-ups for campers and RVs. And of course, it has plenty of apples, carrots and other snacks for hungry horses.

“I would say that this event has really brought the whole equestrian community of north Fulton together,” Casey said. “And I would say that the equestrian center here has never been stronger.”

READ: Hurricane Irma - Which Atlanta restaurants are open or closed?

READ: So far so good - Albany, GA hospital weathers Irma’s first knocks

Casey added that many of the horses staying in Alpharetta during the storm are from Miami-Dade County. A good chunk of those were brought by Taryn Sport-Vincent.

She, Lauren Taylor and Kristin Dyrdal — who all work at a farm owned by Sport-Vincent — made the trip up to Alpharetta on Wednesday with five dogs and 15 horses.

Sport-Vincent’s first instinct was to go to Sarasota — which would end up being damaged by the hurricane — but Taylor’s mother lives nearby in Johns Creek and alerted them to Alpharetta’s Equestrian Center. Twenty hours after leaving Miami, they arrived in north Fulton County.

“The people here have been more than accommodating and wonderful and we’re really thankful they opened their doors to us,” Sport-Vincent said. “A lot of people in Florida were charging quite a bit.”

READ: Perry agricenter gives free shelter to horses - and owners - fleeing Hurricane Irma

READ: Alpharetta equestrian center houses horses evacuated from Irma

Each horse is in its own stall with a roof over its head. Although the worst of the storm hasn’t hit metro Atlanta just yet, Sport-Vincent isn’t too worried about how that weather will affect the horses.

“The chances of (the storm) being something significant by the time it gets here are small,” she said. “Even if it gets bad, it’s not going to be what it would be in Florida.”

Sport-Vincent grew up in Florida and then left the state for a bit, but has now lived there since 2008. This was the first time that she or her horses had fled the state to escape the wrath of a hurricane.

“This one was different,” Sport-Vincent said. “Just the intensity, the size and the scope of it. It’s a lot bigger than (Hurricane Andrew), which we went through.”

And it’s not easy to transport 15 horses. Sport-Vincent put three in a horse trailer, but had to put the other 12 on an 18-wheeler.

“It’s a lot of logistics, to coordinate the evacuation of horses,” Sport-Vincent said. “We have to depend on the clients to do the right thing and pay for their horses to leave. We had quite a bit of damage on our farm, with some big trees down.”

Sport-Vincent said that the horses will likely stay in Alpharetta for another week.

For Wilson, a departure time is a little more up in the air.

“When everyone tells me they’re ready to have their horses back,” Wilson said. “I’ll load them all up and take them home.

Like North Fulton County News Now on Facebook | Follow on Twitter and Instagram


Irma evacuees flock to Valdosta only to put themselves in storm’s path

Irma evacuees make full use of Macon rest stop and its surprise snacks 

“To hell with the storm.” Not all of Tybee Island evacuates

For updates on Hurricane Irma, download the AJC Breaking News app 

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Democrat Jones scores once-unthinkable victory in Alabama Senate race
Democrat Jones scores once-unthinkable victory in Alabama Senate race

Doug Jones and Roy Moore. AP file. Democrat Doug Jones scored a once-unthinkable victory, several media outlets projected Tuesday, winning a U.S. Senate seat in deep-red Alabama fueled by a surge in turnout and a wave of Republicans who couldn’t support former judge Roy Moore’s candidacy after he was accused of sexual misconduct...
Man shoots himself as deputies respond to homicide
Man shoots himself as deputies respond to homicide

A Spalding County woman who was shot early Tuesday died after being flown to Atlanta, officials said. Grady Jack Norton, who deputies believe shot 42-year-old Amber Rae Brown, was holding a weapon next to Brown’s body as deputies entered the 600 block of Cheatham Road in Griffin about 9:15 a.m., Spalding County sheriff’s spokesman...
Family of electrocuted man: ‘It should have been enough time to cut that power off’ 
Family of electrocuted man: ‘It should have been enough time to cut that power off’ 

Like many this past snowy Friday night, Tevin Gullatt had gotten off work early.   The 18-year-old was headed home when he stepped on a downed power line in the 1300 block of Northwest Drive, was electrocuted and died, Atlanta police said in a report.  Charles Baker, 51, who witnessed the entire thing, tried warning Gullatt about the...
FBI says man in ‘Punisher’ shirt robbed 5 metro Atlanta banks
FBI says man in ‘Punisher’ shirt robbed 5 metro Atlanta banks

A man in his mid to late 30s has been robbing banks throughout metro Atlanta for months, the FBI says.  He wore a gray “Punisher” T-shirt in a Dec. 7 robbery at a bank on Roswell Road in Marietta, FBI Agent Stephen Emmett said in a news release.  The “Punisher” is a Marvel Comics character who has been portrayed...
WATCH: Teens assaulted hearing-impaired student, filmed incident
WATCH: Teens assaulted hearing-impaired student, filmed incident

Two teenagers accused of beating a disabled student at an Atlanta high school face harsher charges after video of the attack surfaced on social media, Channel 2 Action News reported Tuesday.  The teens were initially suspended for a day and forced to apologize for the Nov. 30 beating by officials at Maynard Jackson High School, the disabled student&rsquo...
More Stories