OCALA, Florida — Hundreds of Florida horse owners left with very little after Hurricane Ian are getting a hand thanks to an eastern Idaho farmer.
Larsen Farms, owned by Richard and Peggy Larsen, has donated at least $15,000 of hay and horse bed shavings after getting a call late last week from Louisa Barton, the Ocala Chamber of Commerce Director of Equine Engagement.
“Barns were flattened, homes were flattened, hundreds of farmers didn’t have anywhere for their horses and nothing for them to eat,” Barton tells EastIdahoNews.com. “I couldn’t think of a better person to reach out to than Richard Larsen. I’ve only met a few people who have the integrity and soul of Richard Larsen. I knew when I called it wouldn’t be a no.”
Ocala is known as the “Horse Capital of the World” and is reportedly home to around 83,000 horses – more than any other county in America. The Larsens have business operations in Florida and often help the community.
“Louisa called and I immediately reached out to Richard and Peggy. They told me to do whatever we needed to do so we loaded up a truck and trailer,” says Betsy Bevacqua, a Larsen Farms employee in Florida. “Our first trip we had 45 bales of hay and 20 bags of shavings. We also took gas cans full of gas and some lanterns.”
Bevacqua and Barton left Friday at 10 a.m. to drop their first load of hay and supplies. They say the devastation looked like “armageddon” and was “far worse than anything” they’ve ever seen.
What normally would have been a 3-4 hour trip turned into a 20-hour ordeal due to flooding and they didn’t make it back home until 5:30 a.m. Saturday. Despite their exhaustion, they knew more needed to be done – so Bevacqua called Larsen again.
“The Larsens initially donated a huge sum of money to the hay fund and then he doubled it after Betsy told him how devastated the area is,” Barton explains.
The women coordinated to have another load of hay taken to four distribution points. Word spread on social media that horse owners could pick up food and bed shavings for their animals.
“We were able to load a semi of probably 250 bales of hay and another 300 bags of shavings from Larsen,” Bevacqua says. “A truck broking firm volunteered fuel and time and they were able to get on their way.”
Barton is now working on getting a convoy of 10-15 trucks full of hay to devastated areas by the end of the week. She says the kindness extended by Larsen Farms is “almost unheard of” during this time of need.
“I love the fact that I can pick up the telephone and if I reach out to the Larsen family, the answer is going to be a resounding yes,” she says.