A breeder from Ireland is getting ready to drive from Tipperary to Ukraine to deliver essential supplies.
A fundraising campaign to transport equine medicine across Europe to assist horses in Ukraine has united the Irish racing community.
There were thought to be around 100,000 horses in Ukraine at the time of the Russian invasion in February 2022; however, the actual number is unknown at this time.
The number of stressed and injured horses has also put a lot of stress on the country’s veterinary medical supply chain. Many horses have been stolen, displaced, killed, or died from hunger and injuries.
John O’Connor, who owns Ballykelly Stud in County Tipperary, has created Project Cossack, which will see him drive to Ukraine to deliver supplies to Odessa and Kyiv that are desperately needed there.
The thoroughbred center known as the Hippodrome in Kyiv currently houses hundreds of horses. O’Connor has received the necessary medications and a Nissan Pathfinder for the 3,000-kilometer journey with the assistance of a number of industry figures.
“In recent months I’ve visited the Hippodrome in Kyiv on several occasions,” said O’Connor. “It’s home to about 250 horses. Caring for them has become increasingly problematic and there is an urgent need for equine veterinary medicine.
“A large four-wheel-drive vehicle has been acquired and is in the process of being made winter-ready. It’ll be filled with veterinary medicines and driven from Ireland to Kyiv.”
A fundraising page has been set up online to raise the €20,000 needed to run the operation, and it is hoped that the journey can be completed as soon as possible.
“When we get there the medicines will be handed over to the management of the Kyiv Hippodrome,” O’Connor. added. “We’ll then proceed eastwards towards the conflict zone, where the vehicle will be given to an NGO specialising in the exfiltration of the vulnerable and wounded from frontline areas. There is a desperate need for this capability.
“We will also make the most of our journey by travelling to the frontlines to help with the evacuation of people. To escape the worst-hit areas of the war, the most vulnerable Ukrainians are reliant on volunteers using any vehicles they can find to ferry people to safety.
“It is among the most dangerous jobs in the world, playing a cat-and-mouse game with artillery fire to retrieve vulnerable civilians from the devastation that is the east of Ukraine.
“We have a very brave friend, Dmytro ‘Dima’ Omelchenko, who spends his time doing just that. He started by using his parent’s family sedan until it was full of holes from shrapnel and bullets and, ultimately, destroyed by driving over a landmine while evading a missile.”
O’Connor acknowledged that there is tension and nervousness leading up to the trip, but he is determined to make a difference in any way he can.
He said: “We hope to launch the first mission soon. The fundraising effort is being managed by the Breeze-Up Consignors Association and we’d ask people to try and give generously to this very worthwhile activity. It will make a very big difference to the equine and human population of Ukraine.”
O’Connor is hopeful that because he bred the Grade 1 winner, he will have returned in time to watch the Marine Nationale, trained by Barry Connell, attempt to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Britain’s racing community has already contributed to the delivery of equine and humanitarian aid to Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion.
Trainer Gay Kelleway has traveled to the border between Ukraine and Poland, where she has brought back horses and refugees from aid missions. Additionally, Charlie Mann and Oisin Murphy have delivered aid to Ukrainian refugees in Poland last year under the name Racing to Help Ukraine.
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