Volunteers ensure horses safe

Centre employee Timothy Stein, manager Elvira Hilton and a chestnut horse that found a refuge from the fire.
Centre employee Timothy Stein, manager Elvira Hilton and a chestnut horse that found a refuge from the fire.

The centre helped horse owners from as far away as Gidgegannup and Chidlow escape the rapidly advancing fire. Many owners decided to move livestock even though the fire was seemingly still far off ‘just in case’.

Centre manager Elvira Hilton said the equine emergency was the biggest she had seen. ‘We had more than 60 horses at one stage, including 20 from one property,’ she said.

‘Sometimes it wasn’t even the owners bringing them in. Friends, family and neighbours were transporting horses; the equestrian communty is really good like that.’

‘Some of the horses were quite stressed. Like other animals, horses read human emotions, and in such a chaotic event they can really panic.’

A rotating team of volunteers ensured four helpers were on hand at all times during a hectic 48-hour period when the horses were at the centre.

Offers of help poured in after an appeal for extra help made on social media. ‘I want to say a sincere thanks to those people who were able to help out on the day,’ Ms Hilton said.

She said some horse owners camped on the centre grounds to stay with their animals as they had no access to their properties.

Joseph Ashton Circus was also camping on the grounds with their horses, to add to the busy weekend at the equestrian centre.

‘Thankfully, none of the owners we have encountered lost their homes but sheds and properties have been damaged,’ Ms Hilton said.

On Monday, most of the horses were able to move back to their property or to alternative accommodation.

The centre can potentially hold more than 600 horses in an emergency, with 147 stables and 400 day yards.