“We had three race horses of our own, two three year olds and a baby I’ve raised from birth ... and I took them all out to Oklahoma with me, [and] we had a total of eight horses and we were training there at Celestial Acres, which is part of Orr Family Farms that was destroyed in Moore, Okla.,” Ellis said. “We were racing at Remington Park for the spring meet.”
He added, “... We went to Oklahoma City and the stalls at the track were already full, so we had to go to this training center about 20,25 minutes away in Moore, so that’s why I was there.”
Since horse racing is illegal in Georgia, Short and Ellis, who are of New York and Oklahoma, respectively, train their horses at their 26-acre ranch and travel to race.
The day following the weekend of Remington Park races, Monday, May 20, Ellis said the weather did not seem out of the ordinary for his home state.
“I just had left to get something to eat and it was the grace of the Lord that got me out of there in time. The skies didn’t look too good, and I’m from Oklahoma and I’m 44, so I’ve lived there for 43 years, I’ve lived in Emerson for a year, and I’m just used to it. We were expecting some rain and some hail, maybe a tornado warning here and there, nothing out of the norm, but I went ahead to eat and I wasn’t gone for very long and the tornado hit.
“The sirens were going off and ... I got back as close as I could, but traffic was just terrible and [the tornado] had already moved through, so I had to park my truck and take off running because the destruction was so bad and I was a couple of miles from it.”
As Ellis ran toward the ranch, he was approached by a passerby who asked where he was headed. When Ellis told him where he was going, the passerby informed him the farm had been hit, killing multiple horses.
“It was just heart-wrenching; [the horses] were like our kids,” Ellis said. “We raised them from birth and they just meant so much to us and it was our livelihood. Not only did we lose eight horses, we lost both of our horse trailers. I lost thousands of dollars in saddles and tack I had acquired over many years ...
“We’re heartbroken and trying to get things pieced back together and figure out how we’re going to make it.”
Ellis added that the couple is expecting a baby in about three months and that the loss of their horses and business “couldn’t have happened at a worse time.”
“It’s the shock of it all. We brought everything here [to Emerson], they would come in here in between meets and Jon would pony them out in the pasture,” Short said. “... I’m so grateful Jon is alive. I couldn’t get ahold of him for several hours because the cell towers were down, so when I got the call he survived I was so grateful. That was the best call I’ve ever had and the worst call I’ve ever had.”
Ellis said while the loss experienced during the tornado was massive, the response from the community was just as great.
“You learn a lot about human beings when things like this happen,” Ellis said. “The community rallied together and everybody was helping everybody and it was really a sight to see. That’s the only thing that can make you feel good about all this.
“... I stayed there for two or three days and I couldn’t find anything of mine, there was nothing left. Finally, the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association, they gave me some fuel money to get back home, which was very nice of them, ... I had some clothes and I had my truck, but it has just been devastating because everything I had owned was gone.”
Short said the immediate neighbors the couple has befriended since they had moved to Emerson also reached out during their time of need.
“The neighbors here all near Bevil Ridge were coming over to help out ... and we feel very blessed we ended up out here because we couldn’t have made it without the support of our neighbors. They’re just very good people and we’re very lucky to be here.”
A friend of the couple has established fundraising efforts to help restore their loss of investment and business. Those interested in making a donation can visit https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/qrf2/help-for-cowboy-and-jennifer-s-loss, or visit www.Paypal.com and donate to firstname.lastname@example.org.