Rebuilding Begins After 23 Horses Lost in Barn Fire
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Rebuilding Begins After 23 Horses Lost in Barn Fire
November 2011 - Marcella Peyre-Ferry

New Arena being builtA new indoor arena is under construction at Over the Hill Farm in Waverly, Lackawanna County, PA.  The farm, which specializes in jumpers and equitation, lost all but 6 of the 29 horses stabled there in the July 24th fire.

On July 24, fire destroyed two barns and an indoor arena of Over the Hill Farm, in Waverly, PA, killing 23 horses. Six horses made it out of the barn; four of those suffered burns. The indoor arena had been rebuilt just a few months before, in September, 2010, after collapsing under the heavy snow load the previous February.

The 80-acre farm is owned by the Race family, with sisters Trudy Race and Cady Cresswell in partnership. The farm specializes in jumpers and equitation with students of all levels. Trudy handles the day-to-day operations and training, while Cady assists with the business end of the operation. The farm was founded in 1984 by their parents Liz and Don Race, who remain involved in the business.

The fire was discovered by residents of the barn apartment. They were able to get out, but by that time the pony barn where the fire began was completely engaged and the fire was spreading rapidly to the indoor arena, and then to the main barn.

Trudy and Cady’s parents were away at the time of the fire.  Trudy and her husband were at their house “over the hill” where they have a small retirement barn with older horses when they received the call about the fire. She arrived in time to see the devastation as it occurred.

Saved One Horse
“By the time we got down the whole pony barn was engulfed in flames. By the time we got into the big barn, I managed to get one horse out and that was it,” Trudy recalled.

Seven of the horses in the barn were Trudy’s. Lost in the fire were two of Trudy’s personal show horses, Cosmo and Sunny, along with boarders’ and lesson horses. Of the six horses that survived the fire, three were boarders. Those that were burned are all recovering well at this point.

“I've had a lot of very special, top horses die but I've not had them die all at once,” Trudy said.

The cause of the fire is still speculative. One possible cause is the box fans in the pony barn that Trudy had purchased shortly before the fire. It was later discovered that the fans had been recalled because of the potential for motor fires.

Trudy reports that the fire burned with such intense heat that steel I beams were twisted, but the frame of one fan was found with a melted motor inside.

 

Reconstruction
Work on reconstructing the indoor arena was proceeding rapidly in October, with a completion date anticipated by the end of that month. The barn is also being reconstructed on the same footprint as the original, but the interior layout is being changed. The new barn will accommodate just 18 horses instead of 30.

The redesign is intentional so that the new barn does not look too much like it did before the fire – that would bring back too many memories. “It’s going to be difficult going inside the barn. That’s why we’ve changed it,” Trudy said. “It’s images in my mind that will never go away, I’m sure.”

Trudy’s students at the time of the fire were all amateur riders. Three of them have already purchased new horses, but others who had older, retired horses with her do not have plans to return. For the future, Trudy hopes to attract students who would like to advance into the higher ranks of competition. “I like to see people coming in with a goal in mind,” she said.

Olympics Long List
Trudy’s own list of accomplishments include being a part of the 1993 Gold Medal Team North American Young Riders and 1993 Individual Bronze Intermediate Level Eventing. In ’95 she was named as an alternate for the Pan American Team, competed in the Burghley 4* and won the USET Markham Trophy at the Rolex Three Day Event (CCI***). The following year, she was a competitor at the Badminton 4* and was long listed for the Atlanta Olympic Eventing Team. In 1998 she took part in the European Championships in Italy where she was the only American rider. In recent years she has concentrated on show jumping, taking numerous championships at “A” shows from 2007-2011.

One of Trudy’s horses that made it out of the fire is Henry. She purchased him a year and a half ago to lease or resell, but now she will be showing him. “He’s 14, but mileage wise, he’s more like an 8 year old,” Trudy said, adding that a student showed him over the summer successfully at level 2 jumper. “I’m hoping this horse is going to move up and replace what I had.”

Her second competition horse is a five year old she has purchased but so far hasn’t shown. “Hopefully he can be the next one,” Trudy said. “We’re kind of plugging along.”

Riding, training and teaching is Trudy’s full time occupation, making the loss of the farm buildings a financial burden. “This is my everyday job. I basically had a loss of income,” Trudy said.

Local businesses and individuals have been supportive of Over the Hill Farm’s efforts to rebuild. “It’s been an outpouring of support – it’s beautiful,” Trudy said.

English Riding Supply, which is located nearby, has provided Trudy with a new saddle, bridle and apparel. There have been fundraisers and benefits to help assist with the medical costs for the surviving horses that were burned. A donation fund is set up at First National Bank, C/O Crystal Tompkins, 125 N. State St., Clarks Summit, PA 18411.

For more information see the farm Web site at www.overthehillfarmpa.com