Eight horses escaped unscathed from a fire at a riding school in Greater Manchester on Thursday, thanks to the boss risking her life in the flames.

The fire broke out in a hay barn at Husteads riding school in Dobcross, Saddleworth, at around 7.40pm on10 February, shortly after owner Judith Liversidge, 52, had done evening feeds.

A neighbour, Florence Leeson, alerted Mrs Liversidge, who lives in a log cabin on site, and she rushed round the burning stable blocks to free the eight horses, a donkey and a dog before the fire crews arrived.

“It was terrible, but we were really lucky,” said Mrs Liversidge. “If it had been the following night I would have had the stables full, ready for the weekend – I would never have managed to save all the horses.”

It took 30 firefighters 36 hours to quench the blaze.

Fifteen of the 23 stables were destroyed, as were two hay barns, two tackrooms and a feedroom.

A further 18 horses out in the field were unaffected.

Claire Richardson’s loan horse Xena was stabled at the time.

“Xena was so frightened that she was rearing up and wouldn’t come out,” said Claire.
“Judith went in to the stable to drag her out. It’s amazing no lives were lost.”

Mrs Liversidge intends to rebuild the establishment, which has been running for 40 years this month.

By Saturday morning Husteads was open again for lessons, with the two schools and hacking unaffected.

Locals have been donating equipment to replace what was lost in the fire.

“Everyone in the community and beyond are rallying round,” she said.

“We’ve been given tack, feed, grooming kit — my only problem is finding somewhere to store it.”
But the biggest challenge is raising funds. Although the stables were covered by public liability insurance, there was no building insurance.

The cost of the damage is estimated to be £125,000 and people in the community are already organising sponsored rides and other schemes to raise money.

If you want to help, please contact Husteads on tel: 01457 870904.