Riders rally to help fellow equestrians affected by Australian bushfires

Millions of animals have been affected by the devastating bushfires in Australia. © Equestrian Fire Relief Australia Fund
Millions of animals have been affected by the devastating bushfires in Australia. © Equestrian Fire Relief Australia Fund

An international relief fund has been established to support the equestrian community affected by the bushfires in Australia.

The main aim of the Equestrian Fire Relief Australia Fund (EFRA) is to raise funds for emergency relief, but it also hopes to provide moral support to the Australian equestrian community during such a distressing time.

The summer fires sweeping across Australia have caused unprecedented devastation. A staggering 10 million hectares have been burned, affecting nearly every state and territory with the loss of both human and animal life, including an estimated loss of 480 million wildlife. A total of one billion animals are believed to have either died, been injured, or displaced.

The EFRA will dispense funds via local emergency and recovery committees in Australia, supporting the affected equestrian community through emergency aid and existing initiatives, including distributing materials and goods.

Top-level international equestrians, including Olympic and world champions from all disciplines, have already come forward and joined as EFRA ambassadors to help spread the message and raise funds. They include Martin Fuchs, from Switzerland; Christian Ahlmann, from Germany; Patrick Kittel, from Sweden, and his Australian wife Lyndal Oatley; New Zealanders Blyth Tait and Sir Mark Todd; Michael Jung, from Germany; Ingrid Klimke, from Germany; Australians Edwina Tops-Alexander, Andrew Hoy and Chris Burton; William Fox-Pitt, from Britain; Sam Watson, from Ireland; Boyd Martin and David O’Connor, from the United States; Astier Nicholas, from France; and Britons Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin.

Andrew Hoy
Andrew Hoy. © Mike Bain

Hoy, an eventing Olympic gold medallist, said: “To see my home country going up in flames, to see the suffering of people, wildlife and all other animals is just devastating.

“I have received so many messages from people suffering losses across the affected areas and I am heartbroken for all of them.

“The Australian Equestrian Community so urgently needs the help of the international equestrian community – financially, but also morally.

“I hope with this campaign we will be able to make a difference, show our support and get much-needed finances to the people affected.”

Watson, an Irish-international event rider, said: “Reading about the fires has been awful, but imagining if it was our farm and our horses is a devastating thought. When the going gets tough, the equine world gets going.

“This is what we do, we take action and we help horses, wherever they are and for whatever reason, they need our help.”

Fox-Pitt, added: “What a brilliant fund to set up and let’s pray it raises lots of money to support those who are dealing with so much pain and loss.

“We have got to do everything to get this under control, and the first way is to get some money to support them.”

Canberra-based equestrian Jocelyn King will act as the EFRA co-ordinator, supported by volunteers nationally and internationally.

To learn more, and donate, visit www.equestrianfirerelief.com.au.

Meanwhile, major British pet-care business Pets at Home Group is donating £100,000 ($A190,000) to the conservation group Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) to support its efforts with the Australian bush fires.

“Colleagues at Pets at Home have been heartbroken by the devastating impact the ongoing bushfires are having on Australia’s people, environment and wildlife – despite the continuing heroic efforts of firefighters and volunteers,” the company said in a statement.

It pledged the money to help combat the effects of the fires through its VIP (Very Important Pet) loyalty programme called Lifelines – a scheme that allows customers to earn money for good causes when purchasing items in Pets at Home stores or using its services.

Michael Dent, executive director of support income at WWF-UK, thanked the company for its donation.

“It will make a massive difference in helping to restore vital habitats for wildlife. It is great to see that animal lovers here in the UK are so keen to support the wildlife appeal in Australia.”

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