Five horses confirmed killed in Rothenberger fire

More details have been released about the devastating fire that tore through the Rothenberger family’s elite dressage yard yesterday (28 February), with confirmation that five horses died in the blaze.

Gestut Erlenhof, in Germany, is home to home to international riders Sven and Gonnelien Rothenberger and their children Sanneke, 26, Sönke, 24, and Semmieke, 19. It was Sanneke who was first alerted to the fire around 5.45am when she was woken by the family’s dog, Nera, barking.

“That was our luck in misfortune — if Sanneke had not been there just then, everything would have much worse for our horses,” said the family. “Within a few moments the fire had already developed so far that a heat wall hit them, and any help came too late for the horses that stood in the front of the stable.”

Most of the approximately 35 horses on the yard were released to safety, but the Rothenbergers have confirmed that five could not be saved: the promising five-year-old mare Fayola; 24-year-old Paso Doble, Sanneke’s former young riders ride; 27-year-old Kid Gentleman, Sonke’s showjumping schoolmaster; a Swedish-owned dressage pony and the six-year-old licensed stallion Zum Glück. Two more mares, Luna and Kantate, are in a critical condition after suffering burns and St Anton was also injured, though less seriously.

Sönke’s World, Olympic and European gold medallist Cosmo was saved.

“As wild as [Cosmo] can behave, if he feels like it, he followed Sönke yesterday — without a halter — from the burning stable, like a lamb. He put his nose between Sönke’s shoulder blades as if to give him breath, and followed him up the hill,” reported the Rothenbergers, who went on to thank all those who had assisted.

Both Sanneke and Sönke suffered minor burns in the blaze, and Sanneke was treated in hospital for smoke inhalation. Sven and Gonnelien were in Belgium at the time the fire started, with Semmieke, who was competing at the Lier CDI.

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The damage done by the fire is huge — the family’s indoor arena has been destroyed, along with a stable block.

“The fire led to the complete destruction of the stables and a significant damage to an adjacent riding arena,” said a police statement. “In the evacuation of the horses, three of which were injured and had to be taken care of by veterinarians, two stud employees or relatives were injured and had to be hospitalised with suspected smoke poisoning. As part of the extinguishing work, which was still ongoing at the time of the report, two of the approximately 250 firefighters in action were injured and had to be medically assisted.”

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

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