A showjumping producer who lost everything in a devastating yard fire managed to save her horses thanks to the sharp eyes of her five-year-old daughter – while another young girl donated her birthday money to help.
Lauren Sapsted of LSSporthorses was leaving her yard last Thursday evening (23 April) when her daughter Bella said “Mummy, the barn’s on fire”.
“I said ‘don’t be silly’, I thought next door must be having a fire or something,” Lauren told H&H. “But she said ‘no, it’s on fire’.
“I ran down and saw the flames and thought it didn’t look too bad, ran to get the hose, and by the time I got back, the whole thing was ablaze. It’s amazing we managed to save the horses.”
The barn was next to the seven-stable yard and the flames were coming through. Lauren opened the doors and thankfully, she said, the first horse freed made his way towards the field and the others followed.
“I called the fire brigade, then had to try to separate the horses as they’re not used to being out,” she said. “Of course, I didn’t have any headcollars so it was a big job but I did it – and then I had to just watch everything burn to the ground.”
Lauren said the buildings were insured, but the contents of her tack room – worth an estimated £10,000 – were not.
“You know how much stuff you accumulate,” she said. “Like my CWD saddle – even second-hand, they’re £2,000 – bridles, the Veredus boots I’d invested in, everything I’d built up over the years.
“Even my hat; I never buy anything for myself; every spare penny goes on the horses or the kids but [my husband] Greg had done a job just before Christmas and surprised me with the Samshield hat I’d been dreaming of. It had been in the lorry ever since, until a couple of weeks ago when I thought as there’s no shows on, I’ll put all my show gear in the tack room. Even the breeches I’d got for Christmas were in there.
“But if it had been two minutes later, we’d have gone and I don’t think there would have been any getting over that as the horses are my everything.”
A friend, Charlie Bailey, set up a GoFundMe page the day after the fire, which has so far raised nearly £4,000. But also, friends and strangers have donated lorryloads of rugs, yard equipment and tack, and bought feed and haylage, while Dane Rawlins, who supplies temporary stables to events, delivered boxes free of charge.
“Everyone jokes about horsey people but as well as friends, people I’ve never met in my life have been giving whatever they can give, and it’s such a hard time for everyone,” Lauren said. “The horsey community is a really lovely one, and they’ve all bonded together to help me, it’s unbelievable.”
One of those who have helped Lauren is a young girl called Scarlett, who came with her mother last Saturday (25 April) to deliver some cakes – and a letter.
“As soon as I read it, I burst out crying,” Lauren said. “It was when they’d just delivered the stables so I said a lot of thank yous but didn’t read it until later, and they’d told me where they were from but I didn’t take it in.
“I thought ‘how am I going to find her, I can’t accept the money’ but thanks to Facebook, I managed to find them.”
Lauren said Scarlett refused to take the money back, so Lauren will give her lessons once lockdown is lifted, and H&H photographer Lucy Merrell, who keeps her horse at Lauren’s yard, has offered to do a photoshoot.
“People have been so sweet,” Lauren said, adding that owners for whom she has ridden were at the yard at 8am the morning after the fire with feed and haylage for the horses.
'There we were, standing on the A1, with articulated lorries doing emergency stops, and the wagon just went up'
The lorry was on two wheels on the A14
“The only thing that’s got me through this, apart from my family, is how generous people have been,” she said. “I felt like I was on my own, and that I just didn’t want to do this any more, as it’s been one thing after another and I’d really thought this was going to be my year.
“I’m always here on my own; it’s a lonely job and you often feel like no one cares but they do – the way people have been has made me feel I’m not alone.”
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