UK equestrians step up to help as Australia’s firestorm continues

  • The equestrian community has rallied round to support its Australian counterpart, raising money to support those whose lives have been devastated by fire.

    After months of drought, bushfires have been burning since September, but they have intensified this month.

    By 3 January, more than 20 people had been killed and millions of acres of bush, forest and parkland destroyed. Thousands of homes have been burned and people evacuated.

    It is estimated half a billion wild animals have been killed.

    Leading cross-country course-designer and former British Eventing CEO Mike Etherington-Smith is among those trying to help. He contacted Equestrian Australia to ask if funds raised here could be donated to equestrians, and was told a secure website would be set up this week.

    “We’re all seeing the dreadful situation out there and it would be great if the equestrian community here could support the equestrian community there,” he told H&H. “I thought it needs someone to distribute funds, and that needs to be the national governing body. We’d all like to support them as they’re having such a torrid time.”

    Karen Thompson, owner of part-Clydesdale Hovis who rose to fame thanks to his weekly blogs on horseandhound.co.uk, has set up a donation page for Australian wildlife charity WIRES.

    “Through H&H, Hovis has fans pretty much in every continent, and we’ve done similar fundraising after the Californian fires and the horse crisis in Egypt,” Karen told H&H. “They’ve always rallied round, every time I’ve asked for help; they’re awesome.

    “I think everyone’s pretty horrified by the situation. There’s a host of charities and I think people are overwhelmed but I’ve checked this one out and it’s legitimate, and does a huge amount for wildlife.”

    Fellow H&H blogger and Australian Horsemanship founder Jason Webb is also fundraising.

    “Proceeds from my coffee morning on 10 January will go directly to help the incredible efforts of the Rural Fire Service of New South Wales, many of whom are volunteers who are risking their own lives to help others save theirs and their homes,” he said.

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    Facebook group We support Australia charity auction had nearly 4,000 members by Monday (6 January), with lots including semen from top stallions and equestrian-related crafts.

    Founder Kerry Palin said: “This is very close to my heart as I have family and friends in Aus.”

    Dressage Online, which allows riders to upload videos of tests for judging, is running a charity class, with tests from intro to elementary, for disaster funds.

    “It’s to help fellow humans in such a horrific time,” said a spokesman. “The more hooves down the centre line, the better!”

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