By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast Monday afternoon, Lise McNamara sat holding a notepad and pen, trying to figure out how to evacuate 35 of the nation’s top bred gypsy horses from New Jersey to O’Fallon, Mo.
“We have two trailers, there are six box stalls to a trailer, and I’m trying to figure out who to put in each one for an 18-hour trip,” she said in a phone interview.
“The trailers have to stop every few hours and offer the horses food and water and help them get their land legs back before moving on. It’s quite an undertaking.”
It was an undertaking McNamara thought she had all winter to figure out. When her husband’s career change necessitated a move to Missouri, she knew she could re-establish her farm, Blarney Stone Acres in O’Fallon.
Then she learned that Sandy was due to hit the East Coast, and by early Monday morning began contacting shippers with a sense of urgency: The horses had to be moved now. The area in which her farm sits — about 50 miles inland from Long Island Sound — is prone to high flooding and is bordered by a forest of mature trees that could topple.
On Tuesday she had confirmation that a shipper could get to the New Jersey farm by Thursday and anticipates having the horses delivered safely to O’Fallon by the weekend.
Although Missouri’s extreme drought was lessened by recent rainfall, which greened area pastures, McNamara’s horses aren’t fed a diet of grass, so putting them out on fresh Missouri pastures could sicken them.
By Tuesday she had confirmed arrangements with Pittsburg, Kan., native Stacy Clark Foncannon, who now owns a horse farm in Science Hill, Ky. Foncannon agreed to bring a U-Haul of hay to O’Fallon so the horses would have something to eat when they arrived.
“I’m sick to my stomach because it’s such a mess,” McNamara said.
“They’re very special to me. Horse breeding can be better than any Christmas you’ve ever had, and it can also be the worst days of your life. You work and you work, but you can only do so much.”