At one stage last night, trainer Karen Letts-Maund feared she might pay the ultimate price for her rescue mission – the latest example of the thoroughbred and wider horse-loving community uniting in a crisis.
When friend Angie Kendall asked for urgent help to move her 11 horses out of the path of the rampant Cherry Gardens bushfire, Karen, her partner Jeff Maund and daughter Monique sprung into action without hesitation, rushing to the Jupiter Creek property and launching into the evacuation process.
“I’ve never been that close to a bushfire before,” Karen said today.
“The heat was on our backs, you could just feel it.
“We were thinking ‘Are we going to get out of this place or not?’. It was really scary.”
Karen and Jeff “grabbed an ex-racehorse” and a warmblood from the property and rushed it back to their own place 15 minutes away, then repeated the dose with a couple of Welsh mountain ponies.
They returned again to the fire-threatened site where Karen – taking charge of the scene to aid her shaken friend – was soon given an ultimatum.
“The firefighter said ‘The fire’s 10 minutes away, this is your last call’,” she said.
“The firefighters said they would stay to fight the fire and defend the house, and we decided to try to get the horses out before we left.
“Jeff had to actually lift the foals onto the float, because they’ve never floated before.
“So it was a real panic…”
Fortunately, the power of social media and the camaraderie of horse owners helped lighten the load.
“In the beginning Angie had no one to help her, bar us,” Karen said.
“But Monique put it all over social media and about eight or nine floats rocked up after we were there.
“We had a lot of equine people there and my neighbours next door actually said if we run out of room we can put more horses there.
“It just shows how our community comes together in situations like this.”
Fellow trainer Paula Trenwith also marvelled at the fraternity’s caring nature, after she also helped move horses to safety last night.
“I’d like to think that if I was in trouble, that someone would come and help me too,” Paula told ABC Radio today.
Many horses were transported to Morphettville’s Magic Millions facility, which Paula said was a hive of activity late into the night.
“Kudos to Magic Millions…they just opened the place up,” she said.
“People can just load their horses up – they don’t even need to ring. They just head on down to Magic Millions and the horses are in a safe environment.
“We were there quite late and there was still a lot of people arriving. About 10.30pm I reckon.
“They would’ve been working through the night and the place was packed.”
Paula said trainer Shayne Cahill also helped move horses away from the danger zone, using an eight-horse truck and a three-horse float.
“Thank you to the CFS,” she said. “Those people just rock.”