Equestrian Facilities Leveled by Tornado

April 29, 2006

WACO, Texas - A tornado touched down Saturday morning at 12:45 completely destroying the home of Baylor's equestrian head coach, Ellen White. Along with White's house, a farm also occupies her land. The barns and arena served as the temporary facilities for the program until the Willis Family Equestrian Center is built. No injuries were reported for any residents in the area but two Baylor horses died in the ordeal.

The Baylor Board of Regents at its April 21 spring meeting authorized the construction of a new facility off of University Parks Drive. The coach's house, barns, and arena were all destroyed by the tornado.

The White's two-story stone house collapsed under the pressure of the winds which were declared a tornado Saturday morning by the National Weather Service. The arena, which is used for practices as well as for equestrian shows hosted by Baylor, was completed blown over while five horses were in stable inside. When White and her husband returned home from a rehearsal dinner out of town, the couple found two horses already dead but was able to cut metal around three others to free them.

The two horses that were killed by the tornado were both donated to the first-year equestrian program. Zipper Tight Jeans, nicknamed Gracie, was a grey, mare quarter horse that was donated by George Dallas. Gracie was used as a Western Horsemanship horse. All Natural scotch, nicknamed Geo, was a bay, gelding quarter horse donated by Sharon Dietz. Geo was also a Western Horsemanship horse.

Among Baylor's 22 horses, six were taken to the vet for injuries sustained during the ordeal. Some horses have simple lacerations while others may have more series injuries such as bruised or broken hind legs. Mac, Rascal, Marqui, Becall, and Buddie were the six horses requiring medical attention.

"Right now we are just trying to recover what we can. Ellen [White] is an incredibly strong woman. Baylor's riders are going home for the summer so the coaches and administration will work on building our new facilities and getting ready for next year. And Ellen is going to be working on a new house. We just ask that people think of the Whites as well as our equestrian program and remember them in their prayers," said Nancy Post, Baylor's Senior Women's Administrator.


White's daughter, Shelby, a freshman English rider on Baylor's team, was in her bedroom about to go to bed when the wind began to destroy her house. S. White's bedroom was located in the front of the house on the second floor. The 19-year-old was nearly asleep when she started to hear the wind rattle her surroundings.

"I dove in the back corner of my room and all the walls collapsed. When the window shattered, I thought we had a really strong wind. But when the wall started collapsing, I didn't know what to think. The bottom story has completely collapsed," said S. White.

S. White was able to walk out of her bedroom window uninjured once the tornado has passed.

Waco police counted about 14 people who were displaced by the storm though no injuries have been reported. The American Red Cross is currently helping to provide shelter for those affected by the storm. The tornado damaged other structures in the areas around the 3200 block of Orchard Lane and the 2600 block of Kendall Lane. Electricity is out but crews are at work to restore power and clear the strewn debris.

Women's Equestrian Home

Head coach Ellen White's house and farm were destroyed early Saturday morning when a tornado smashed through southeast Waco.
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