The Ocala Horse Alliance has established the Emergency Feed Fund for Horses.

The Ocala Horse Alliance has created an emergency fund to help Marion County horse owners feed their four-legged partners during the coronavirus challenge. And for some, the relief comes just in the nick of time.


The alliance, conceived by Ocala resident Ellie Trueman just 18 months ago, leaped into action when the coronavirus shutdown happened, hitting area horse owners hard. Like almost everyone, they’re trying to keep the bills paid and the lights on, but with the added stress of making sure their beloved animals are fed.


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Some owners are facing significant and scary income loss, along with the uncertainty of when things will turn around and go back to a semblance of normal. They worry about whether they can feed, or even keep, their horses.


“We had no idea how large and extensive the problem would be,” Trueman said of the alliance’s fundraising initiative. “The stories are heartbreaking; ‘I’m out of feed, I’m out of hay.’ They were talking about letting their horses go or re-homing them. This program is designed to help those people.”


The Emergency Feed Fund for Horses assists as many owners in desperate need as possible through community and business donations. The grants are given on a case-by-case basis and are a way of helping bridge the gap and help owners out until they can get their feet under them again.


Donations to the fund enable Trueman and her team to give recipients vouchers for feed and hay from Ocala-based Berretini Feed Specialists, which partnered with the alliance in the program. The vouchers give owners the option of choosing any mix of hay or grain for their horses, and candidates can reapply after two weeks.


The first grant recipients were given vouchers this past Sunday, and Trueman hopes more donations will continue to come in.


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“We believe that many horse owners fortunate enough not to be in dire straits through this pandemic will assist as we try to feed horses in need,” Trueman said.


Applicants and grant recipients will be held in confidence, and any horse owners can apply, regardless of how many horses they have. Donors will be recognized on the OHA Facebook page and website for their generosity.


Trueman remembers hearing from one recipient in particular who had been almost in tears over the weekend wondering how she was going to feed her horses, and who was immeasurably relieved for the grant award.


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“People have been put in this position through no fault of their own,” Trueman explained, adding that in the Horse Capital of the World making sure the animals don’t go hungry is a top priority. “There are simply a lot of horses out there at risk of not being fed.”


This story originally published to ocala.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.