Children’s riding school vows to ‘fight back’ after fire

  • A children’s riding school is devastated after its lorry caught fire, seconds after a young child was inside the vehicle and destroying equipment worth thousand of pounds.

    The fire, thought to be caused by an electrical fault, started at 7pm on Saturday (18 August) at the Pony Pals Club, in Wickford, Essex.

    Owner Donna Sullivan told H&H: “We were getting ready for an event at the weekend and had been putting tack in the lorry. My eight-year-old son had went into the lorry and I heard someone shout they could see smoke. Within seconds of me getting to the lorry and getting my boy off it had gone up in flames. We were lucky it didn’t blow.”

    No people or horses were hurt in the fire but Donna’s family home was damaged.

    “The lorry is parked 20ft away from our home and right beside our ponies’ field,” she said. “The children’s bedroom window smashed and the field fencing has been burnt and will need replacing. One pony had a singed mane but thank god no one was hurt.

    “It’s absolutely heartbreaking. We’ve had the lorry 12 years – my father bought it for my eldest daughter before he passed away. It’s not about the money, it’s about the memories. We have had amazing family holidays with the children and the ponies in the lorry. That is our life, it’s what we live for.”

    The Pony Pals Club, which has eight rescue ponies, has lost rugs, bridles, saddles and travel and show equipment, which Donna says will have a “huge impact on the business”.

    “We rely on the lorry. We run the Pony Pals Club from home four months of the year but the rest of the time is spent travelling to local venues and organising fun days,” she said. “We do a lot of children’s charity work and hundreds of children rely on Pony Pals Club. There’s children that can’t talk that look forward to seeing the ponies. It’s not just our children we’re letting down, it’s the community. ”

    “The sentimental side hurts more, my son is traumatised. I just keep saying to myself, my children are ok and the animals are ok,”

    The Pony Pals Club has said it will “fight back and keep the club going”.

    “We’re not asking for charity or handouts but just hope everyone will still support the club and keep coming,” Donna said. “We’re doing a charity fundraising day at the end of the month for MIND and hope alongside that we can try and raise some money to buy some things back. We’ve had a lot of offers of support and are working through the messages now.”

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