Barn Fire Kills 13 Therapy Horses in Michigan

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Around 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 8, The owners of The Barn for Equine Learning in Lowell, Michigan, experienced every horse owner’s nightmare.

“My stepfather was letting the dog out and saw the flames,” founder Kay Welton told local ABC affiliate WZZM. “I ran down from my house to the barn, and the horses—the fire had taken the barn.”

Welton went into the barn and opened stall doors, but she was too late. The 13 horses in the barn and one pet rabbit had perished as a result of smoke inhalation.

Further compounding the devastation caused by the loss of these horses is their connection to the community. The Barn for Equine Learning offers programs in equine-assisted learning, equine-assisted psychotherapy and community outreach programs alongside traditional riding lessons and summer camps. Those programs will be suspended, but the organization is already working to rebuild.

The Barn had two horses that had been recently added to the herd and were housed in a separate building and survived the fire. Those horses will become an important part of the program as The Barn restarts.

The Barn did have insurance coverage which will help replace some of the lost property. Additionally, a GoFundMe page has been created to help raise funds to rebuild and start a new herd of therapy horses.

Tap here to view The Barn for Equine Learning’s GoFundMe page.

Authorities are calling the fire suspicious and are investigating the cause of the blaze as a criminal matter. While firefighters were putting out the flames, the barn’s owners noticed that one of the barn doors had been chained shut and the fence surrounding the area had been cut. Additionally, Welton told WZZM that there had been “odd things” happening around the property in the lead up to the fatal fire. The organization was in the process of setting up surveillance cameras when the fire happened.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to contact the Kent County Sheriff’s Office at 616-632-6125.

While the investigation proceeds, the riders and volunteers at The Barn are working through their grief over the loss of the 13 beloved horses. A memorial service for the animals will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 15 at The Barn’s property.


Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky. www.lesliepotterphoto.com

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