Thoroughbreds back at California training facility after wildfire evacuation


Hundreds of horses were scheduled to return in mid-April to the newly rebuilt San Luis Rey Training Center after a December wildfire near San Diego.

A horseman leads a horse to safety at San Luis Rey Training Center in Bonsall, California, Dec. 7, 2017. (Photo courtesy Dr. Chuck Jenkins)Many horses that survived a California wildfire were scheduled to return the weekend of April 13-14 to the San Luis Rey Training Center after being evacuated in December, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

A veterinarian on site at the training center in Bonsall in San Diego County, California, during the fire described to dvm360 the speed of the blaze and his and staff members' frantic work to free as many horses as possible. During the worst of the fire, however, Chuck Jenkins, DVM, had to sit and watch:

“When the flame and smoke were at their most intense, there wasn't much I could do. I moved my truck over to an area where tractors and other heavy equipment were stored, out of the way of the burning barns. I had to just basically sit there. I tried to get out of my truck a few times, but then 40 to 50 horses would go running by in a herd. So if I got out of my truck I was going to die of smoke inhalation, burn by fire, or get trampled by horses. I just had to wait until things calmed down a bit so we could start actually gathering the horses up and getting them to a safe place.”

Now, more than 400 thoroughbreds that had been staying 35 miles away at the Del Mar Fairgrounds are heading back to new or newly repaired buildings at the 240-acre site. Also returning are more than 200 trainers, assistant trainers, groomers and stable hands who stayed with the horses at Del Mar during the postfire cleanup.

The so-called Lilac Fire of Dec. 7, 2017, ultimately claimed the lives of 46 horses and more than 100 nearby homes.

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