Seven horses injured when a tornado ripped through a horse ranch near Sulphur Monday are being treated at Oklahoma State University’s Veterinary Medical Hospital by a team of veterinary students and staff including Dr. Daniel Burba, whose home north of Stillwater was hit by a tornado that pushed through Payne County that same evening.
Burba’s wife called him at OSU, telling him to come home because there was severe damage to their property.
A horse barn and tool shed were simply gone. One horse trailer was flipped over and another had a hole ripped through it. The home sustained wind and hail damage and fencing used to contain the 11 horses and five goats was damaged.
“I could not believe it,” Burba said. “I had just finished the tool shed.”
Burba, who had been hit by multiple hurricanes during the 25 years he worked at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, had been in Stillwater less than two years.
“I’m ready to move,” Burba remembers telling his wife, even though no people or animals were injured at his property.
After receiving a phone call from a veterinarian in southern Oklahoma, the OSU veterinary specialists at the only veterinary college in the state prepared for five adult horses and two foals from Wolfe Ranch Quarter Horses to arrive.
All seven horses are expected to live.
“This was the first time I’ve seen animals injured in a natural disaster,” said Dr. Amanda Plunkett, who moved to Oklahoma last August. “I enjoyed being able to help the victims and their families.”
Burba said that being able to help in a time of tragedy is very internally satisfying.
He said that with the OSU facility being an instructional-teaching hospital, that teamwork is critical.
“This is a good learning experience for the students,” Burba said.
Veterinary students were paired with each of the seven injured horses and are responsible for helping provide them with care.
Melissa Nelson, a fourth-year vet student, is helping one of the two most severely injured horses, a 17-year-old stallion that has multiple fractures to his face and head.
“He has been a great patient,” Nelson said. “I’m just happy to help with his injuries.”
Fellow fourth-year vet student Cameron Smithee helped with triage of small animals following the 2013 tornados that pushed through Moore and surrounding communities.
The OSU Animal Relief Fund was established following those 2013 tornado’s and helps cover the costs of animal victims at no expense to the owner as long as funds are available.
Thursday, Smithee cared for the other severely injured horse, a 15-year-old quarter horse mare with a month old foal at her side.
The mare suffered a large laceration to her right leg, underwent surgery Wednesday and now has a cast on while healing up for the next two to four weeks before going home.
“We had to work as a team when seven horse came in,” Smithee said. “It is really neat to see how people come together or fall apart. I think we came together.”