A farming couple are devastated after three of their horses died when their stables were destroyed in a suspected late-night arson attack.

The animals were found dead in a stable block at Wilton Farm, Pelynt, near Looe in Cornwall, after a fire broke out at about 1am on Thursday, 9 August.

An 18-year-old man from the Looe area was arrested on suspicion of arson and held in custody at Launceston Police Station.

The stables belonged to Susan and Richard Jones, who are trying to come to terms with the loss of their horses, including an Appaloosa mare, Misty, whom they had had since a foal.

The other victims were a three-year-old dappled cob, Jasper, and a part-bred Dartmoor pony, Bonnie.

Mrs Jones, 63, and her 80-year-old husband are so shocked by the loss that they have decided to sell their smallholding, on which they keep sheep and chickens as well as the horses, and move to a different location.

Firefighters were called but by the time they arrived the stables had been destroyed by the fire — within 12min.

Mrs Jones said: “The whole thing was such a shock. We have no idea who would want to do this. We’d had Misty for 20 years and I used to go hacking on her. And we were training Jasper for carriage driving — the whole thing hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Mrs Jones had stabled the horses as usual at around 10.30pm on Wednesday. The stables are close to a route used by dog walkers and children, who play in a nearby stream.

County and district councillor Paul Adams, also chairman of Caradon District Council, said: “It’s been devastating.”

The police are now investigating the incident and are trying to establish if the fire is linked to an earlier incident, where a nearby hedge was set alight at about 5pm on the evening before the fire.

The suspect has been released on police bail until 24 September.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (16 August, ’07)