A producer whose yard was “obliterated” in a catastrophic fire has thanked the community for its support – and urged others to have an emergency plan in place.
Charlotte Springall managed to get all the horses at her Wiltshire yard to safety last week (16 April), and no humans or other animals were harmed, but she has lost stables, equipment, and much more.
“It’s changed my life,” Charlotte told H&H. “Nothing can prepare you for something like this; I have no words.”
It is not known what caused the fire, but Charlotte was woken by an explosion from one of three caravans on site, at 1am.
“I ran out in my pyjamas to put the stallions out,” said Charlotte, a single mum who backs and produces horses and has rare breeds including a Fell and a graded Cleveland Bay stallion. “I knew I couldn’t let them all out together as there would have been carnage.”
Charlotte had friends staying, one of whom looked after her three children, while the other helped her get the horses to safety.
“All I remember is the colour; I don’t remember flames,” she said. “I remember putting the Cleveland Bay’s headcollar on and saying to him: ‘whatever you do, you’ve got to be brave and trust me’, as I had to take him past the fire to his paddock – and he did. We got them all out.”
Charlotte, who also gives lessons to children with a range of special needs, has lost 10 stables, equipment including a therapy rug she used on the horses, mucking-out tools, haynets, grooming kit, rugs, boots and more.
“It’s little things, like my plaiting kit,” she said. “I’ve had that for years and there are things in there my mum gave me, which are irreplaceable.
“All my buckets in the barn that didn’t burn melted in the heat and the fire brigade said a 40-gallon drum of water I had was bubbling.
“My mechanic left his car here while he took my lorry in to work on and his car’s burnt; door and gutters are burnt on the stables I’ve still got, but no animals or people were lost – although my legs got burnt, and my hair’s a bit singed. The fire stopped six feet from the LPG gas tank so all I can say is that we were very lucky.”
A friend of Charlotte’s appealed for help, and set up a JustGiving page on her behalf, which has raised over £1,000.
“People have been amazing with their support,” Charlotte said, adding that she would like other people to think in advance about what they would do in such a situation.
“You can’t practise this but you have to have a plan,” she said.
A Defra video covering horse care guidelines had confused owners
If this makes even one person think twice, that’s a good thing.
If you want to keep up with the latest from the equestrian world without leaving home, grab a H&H subscription
“I always had one in my head as I put my horses in their situation so I have to look after them. I knew the one thing was to get all the animals out and keep the children safe.
“You can’t do fire drills with horses but you have to have a plan in your head, and be able to get from A to B – never block doors. As I ran out of the house, I never in a million years thought I wouldn’t be able to stop it.”
We continue to publish Horse & Hound magazine weekly during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as keeping horseandhound.co.uk up to date with all the breaking news, features and more. Click here for info about magazine subscriptions (six issues for £6) and access to our premium H&H Plus content online.