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Miracle Horses Add Tornado Survival to Their Resumes

Moonstruck and Catori beat the odds again, pull through Oklahoma twister

  • Moonstruck's survival is a comfort to the Wallings, who lost their home. Cynthia Armstrong/HSUS

  • Catori was unhurt and Moonstruck had a cut on his leg after the tornado, which killed nine people. Cynthia Armstrong/HSUS

by Julie Hauserman

A foal and mare who survived a serious highway accident on their way to slaughter a year ago have chalked up another miracle. They survived a direct hit by a powerful tornado that leveled their Oklahoma farm, killed 18 horses, and left their foster family homeless.

Desiree and Brian Walling's demolished farm in Calumet, Oklahoma had served as a haven for rescued horses. On May 24, when a storm approached, Desiree and Brian fled with their two foster children and dogs into their tornado shelter. This is how they survived a twister so powerful it killed all but three of their equines and left nothing but their home's concrete foundation intact.

But there stood the miracles: mare Catori and her two-month-old foal, Moonstruck, were waiting largely unharmed amid the wreckage.

Emergency personnel rescued the Wallings because the shelter's door was blocked. The family was swiftly taken away because of a leaking gas line and nearby fire. Concerned for their donkey and 20 horses, they called a veterinarian and headed back on foot to their farm through a nearby field. Devastation, death, and injured horses awaited them at their once-cozy farm.

But there stood the miracles: mare Catori and her two-month-old foal, Moonstruck, were waiting largely unharmed amid the wreckage.

"It seems like they were in the eye of the storm or something, somehow protected," said an astonished Cynthia Armstrong, HSUS Oklahoma state director.

Under a lucky star

It isn't the first time these two horses have been protected. In the spring of 2010, a pregnant Catori was crowded with 30 other horses in a cattle trailer, on her way from Missouri to a slaughterhouse in Mexico. The transport rig driver fell asleep in Oklahoma, causing a horrific accident that ultimately left 13 horses dead.

Catori was among 17 horses rescued from that accident. Aside from an injury that left her partially blind in one eye, she was fine. And, rescuers later learned, expecting.

View adoptable horses from Blazes Tribute Equine Rescue »

Help animals and families in disaster-stricken areas with a donation to our Animal Rescue Team»

The Humane Society of the United States and an Oklahoma group, Blaze's Tribute Equine Rescue, heard about the accident and immediately began trying to identify the owner and obtain the surviving horses.  The Missouri owner man was a slaughterhouse middleman, a so-called "kill buyer." He had bought the horses with the intention of sending them to slaughter.

To her horror, Armstrong learned that Catori and the other horses who had survived the accident had already been transported back to Missouri, where they would eventually be shipped again to a Mexican slaughterhouse. The HSUS and Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue were able to negotiate with the owner to release the horses into the two charities’ care so that the horses could be adopted into loving homes.

Desiree Walling sits on the board for Blaze's Tribute, and she agreed to foster Catori and the accident survivors at her farm while they were being readied for adoption. Moonstruck earned his name when he was born the night of the dramatic "supermoon," when the moon was the closest it has been to the Earth in 20 years.


When the recent tornado struck, the Wallings had four of the accident survivors still living with them, and two—Robbie and Percy—did not survive the storm. And despite the valiant efforts of local veterinarians, two other severely injured horses—Jackie and Elvis—perished several days after the tornado struck.

The HSUS is covering veterinary expenses for the family. For now, Catori and Moonstruck are being boarded at their local veterinarian, and soon they will be released to stay with one of the Wallings' neighbors. You can help provide relief for animals and families like the Wallings and their horses by donating to our Animal Rescue Team.

"Desiree and Brian are animal people," says Armstrong. "The fact that these horses made it through is what they are holding onto during this difficult time. I was deliriously happy to see these two alive and reunited with their people who love them so much."


The Wallings have permanently adopted Catori and Moonstruck. To adopt other horses from Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue, email Natalee Cross at blazesequineresc@aol.com, or call 405-399-3084. View horses available for adoption on the Blaze’s Tribute website.

Julie Hauserman is a freelance writer.