The text from my trainer read, “Knight is safe.” A wave of relief replaced worry.
My barn burned last Monday. You might have heard about all the horrific fires in California. One of those hit too close to home.
My trainer (my hero) and several other horse friends and people I have never met–Good Samaritans–valiantly evacuated over 150 horses to safety.
I am told near the end of the two-hour process, when trucks and trailers were not allowed to drive into the county park where our equestrian center is nestled, as people were leading three and four horses at a time the mile out of the park, up a steep hill and across an intersection to the Albertson’s grocery store parking lot where trailers were waiting for them, community college students wearing flip flops who’d been dismissed due to the wildfires nearing campus somehow showed up and grabbed the lead ropes to literally lend a hand to the overburdened horse handlers.
October 9 was a typical Monday for me at school until I looked at my cellphone, checking Facebook during my lunch break. An image of an enormous gray cloud swallowing up the equestrian center where I board Knight stunned me. The barn owner posted on the equestrian center’s Facebook page: WE ARE EVACUATING … ALL TRAILERS WELCOME!
I literally ran to find my assistant principal in the office, showed him the image and said, “I’ve gotta go!” A kind math teacher next store agreed to cover my last class of the day.
I work about an hour from where I live and where Knight lives–I mean used to live up until Monday. I didn’t know how I could help, but I knew I needed to get closer to home and to my horse.
As I drove on the 5 Freeway near Disneyland, the sky became ominous–a weird orange gray. Facebook said that all horses were out but there was a need for buckets. I figured I could grab a few random Home Depot buckets–those orange things–we have around the house and head to the barn.
My dogs Tigger and Missie were excited to see me home early and I brought them inside the house knowing I couldn’t leave them outside with the fires close to us as the air quality was going to worsen.
I changed clothes to wear something more barn appropriate than my school teacher outfit, and by the time I placed the three buckets in my car, I received a text alert on my phone that my city was under evacuation orders.
I was a little confused, maybe skeptical because we live on a small street of four houses which is technically unincorporated Orange County. When mail is sent to us people can use three different city names, all with our correct zip code and the mail still comes. So I called the local fire department to see if I was supposed to evacuate.
I should mention here the sky was blue in our neighborhood and I couldn’t smell smoke or see ash falling from the sky. That’s another reason why I questioned the text alert.
The fire department said I should call the police department. When I told the police officer who answered my cross streets he said, “You’re fine,” and then listed the neighborhoods not far from us that were supposed to evacuate.
At that point I called my husband Mark who works about twelve miles away and is much closer to the beach (meaning out of harm’s way) to tell him the news. He said he was wondering why the sky looked a blurry gray brown and that he’d come straight home.
As I waited for Mark I felt helpless and trapped. Helpless because I couldn’t get buckets to the horses. I didn’t want to leave our house in case they changed the evacuation zone and then I would not be allowed in to get my dogs. Trapped because I had to wait until Mark came home to come up with a game plan.
At that point I started loading up my car with a couple of work outfits, my brown riding boots I’ve only worn once, my regular boots, my SmartPak Hadley breeches, my beautiful new green dance shoes I haven’t yet worn, the winter pajamas Mark had just given me for my birthday three days earlier and a ton of photo albums. And I packed my laptop into my computer bag. Just in case.
When Mark came home he began videoing all the rooms in our house, narrating the upgrades we’ve put in since we moved here in 2010 when we got married. (We bought the worst house on the best street we could afford. It’s still a work in progress, but less totally awesome 80s than when we bought it.)
The local news kept flashing fire images from around Anaheim and Orange and as the evening progressed and we stayed put, we saw live footage of the main barn, the one Knight lived in when I had him in a box stall up until a month or so ago, in flames. It didn’t seem real.
The aerial shots of the property were far enough away that I couldn’t tell in what shape Knight’s current pipe corral was in, but the jumps in the area seemed okay–knocked over, but not completely gone. So I had a little hope.
I texted my friend, the one who was there when I had my scary fall last spring. She was at the evacuation barn and said she would go find Knight for me. I imagine it was chaotic with fifty incoming horses taking up residency in such a short time frame.
She sent me this text photo of my guy.
And I was relieved. This is the same barn where Knight first lived when I bought him almost exactly three years ago.
When I saw Knight’s little face and perked ears, I knew we’d be okay.
Ways to Help Canyon Fire 2 Horse Evacuees
If you would like to help my barn family rebuild, click here to see the Go Fund Me that has been established.
Another way to support is by purchasing original art. Emily, one of my barn friends, is creating these cool gray horse paintings, donating all profits toward the rebuilding of Le Cheval. If you are interested in a piece (I bought one), you can send her a message on Instagram or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friends, equestrians, anyone: I’m doing a limited run of watercolor paintings and ALL profits will be going to @lechevalsporthorses to help rebuild our barn and replenish supplies lost in #CanyonFire2. I started riding with Lauren exactly a year ago, and she and Le Cheval have been there for me in my toughest year and I’m eternally grateful. She is an amazing person and trainer and deserves the best. The fire has made a devastating impact. Help us rebuild and get a pretty fun painting in exchange. All paintings will be a variation of this one – size is 9×12”. Background colors can be changed out but I’m sticking with the “dapple” grey horse (if you say you’re not a sucker for a dapple grey, you’re lying.) ⭐️$65 each plus shipping fees⭐️
Thank you for reading and go hug your pony on my behalf! I have a few more blog posts I need to write on this barn fire, so come see us again to find out more about the heroes, lessons learned and practical tips to help your barn family plan for a catastrophe such as this.
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