Heartbreak as six horses die in suspected arson attack

  • Nearly £12,000 has been raised for the owners of a yard where six horses died in a suspected arson attack.

    Al Khawaneej, Rees Rascle, Knockraheen Pedlar, Warwick, Pete and Crystal, as well as elderly dog Dolly, were lost in the blaze at Kayben Stud, Sussex, on Saturday (16 January), which police believe was started deliberately.

    Charlotte Rayner-Grey told H&H the family stud is run by her sister Torie Joyce.

    “We’re all lost, we don’t know what to do,” she said. “The whole situation is heartbreaking.”

    Charlotte said the alarm was raised at about 6am on Saturday by the first to arrive at the yard.

    “My sister’s house is a five-minute walk away; she ran,” Charlotte said.

    “I think her horses had died by the time she got there but she saw them. How is anyone supposed to get over that? I helped afterwards and I can’t get rid of those images.”

    Torie lost 12-year-old former racehorse Al Khawaneej, a 17.3hh “gentle giant” who was enjoying success in the show ring but could be handled by Charlotte’s two-year-old son. Rees Rascle, another 12-year-old former racehorse, was a yard favourite, and it was hoped that eight-month-old Irish draught Knockraheen Pedlar (Pluto) would become the stud’s foundation stallion.

    Irish draught Kayben Warwick was 11 and had just started a successful showing career, while the family hoped Pete, a former successful eventer who had been rescued by Rainbow Bridge Equine Rescue, would be able to resume a ridden career in future.

    Sara Smithers’ retired grey mare Crystal had also been rescued, and was “much loved”.

    “They were all such loving horses,” Charlotte said. “Pluto was so beautiful; I know that doesn’t matter but we had such great plans for him. And Warwick was doing really well; he had been champion several times. It’s always been my sister’s dream to go to Horse of the Year Show and we thought he was going to be the one to take her there.

    “Torie had been working really hard with Pete and he was just starting to trust people again.”

    Charlotte said not all the yard’s horses were lost.

    “My old boy was out in the field, and my foal was in a corner stable, which was singed where it was so close to catching fire,” she said.

    “That block had another five horses in it, and in another block, the windows had melted in the empty corner stable because of the heat. We were so close to losing absolutely everything.

    “It makes you feel sick. Some of the horses in the other stables are now scared to go in; it makes me cry to think about what they had to see.

    “My sister’s been riding since she was 18 months old and they were her life; the horses everyone else gave up on, she never did. She just loved them, and they loved her back.”

    Charlotte added that the family is trying to hold on to the fact that the situation could have been far worse.

    “If Torie had got there earlier, she could have gone in, and we could be mourning her now,” she said.

    “That’s the only thing we can say now, that it could have been worse.

    “My mum’s elderly dog was lost too, and there were two cats missing but they came back this morning. That small thing made us all cry.”

    Charlotte said the family has been overwhelmed by the generosity of those who have contributed to the fundraising page set up to help them rebuild.

    “We’ve had some lovely people asking what we need, and saying they’ll come and help us with the building; it’s nice to think there is some future,” she said.

    “We’ve got some mares in foal and the girls at the yard, who are lovely, and whose ponies were safe, said they’ve decided one of the foals will be called Phoenix, rising from the ashes.

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    “That’s a beautiful sentiment, and everyone’s kindness has made us feel so humbled. I can’t understand how anyone could have done this to horses who have never hurt anyone, but it’s nice to know that for that one evil person, there are so many hundreds of lovely ones.”

    A Sussex Police spokesman said: “The fire is being treated as suspicious and two men, aged 40 and 24, have been arrested on suspicion of arson. They have both been released on conditional bail until 13 February while enquiries continue.

    “The investigation is ongoing and anyone who saw what happened or who may have any other information is asked to contact police online or by calling 101 quoting serial 195 of 16/01. Alternatively, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

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