On Nov. 11, a fire consumed the main barn and indoor arena at Whistling Ridge Farm in Afton, Va., west of Charlottesville. No horses or people were injured.
The farm, a boarding and training facility run by Lauren Seitz, is home to about 15 horses of various disciplines. On the evening of the fire, Seitz decided to leave all of the horses out for the night to take advantage of the warm weather.
After a late afternoon ride, Seitz put the last horse out to pasture around 5:30 p.m.
“I had made a big pot roast, and we had my mother-in-law over and my neighbor,” said Seitz. “Maybe an hour later, I brought dishes over to the kitchen sink, which looks right down over the barn. It’s my favorite view in the house because I can look out and see my barn and the horses. It was just glowing.”
The fire department arrived within 15 minutes and was able to save the boarders’ tack room, but the rest of the barn and equipment were destroyed.
“It’s like a bad Harry Potter movie. It’s like someone said, ‘Poof!’ and the wood just disappeared. It just leveled to the ground in 30 minutes,” said Seitz, who has owned the property for more than 20 years. “It’s just ‘stuff,’ but I had my ribbons and coolers I’d won at shows and saddles they don’t make anymore, stuff that you can’t replace.”
Although Seitz is waiting on the final report from the fire marshal, she said the signs point to an electrical fire. The barn was insured, and she hopes to begin the clearing and rebuilding process soon, but with colder weather approaching, Seitz’s immediate concern is putting up run-in sheds in two pastures.
“We have two pastures that don’t have shelter right now, which wasn’t a problem because horses were only going out there for their turnout time, but now that’s not an option. And those weren’t here before the fire, so they are not covered by our insurance. One of our top priorities is to get that as soon as possible,” she said.
Seitz posted a wish list and contact information on the Whistling Ride website. She noted that right now, veterinary supplies are especially important in case any of the horses suffer an injury.
Anything Whistling Ridge can’t use will be donated directly to the Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue. Seitz was fostering one of their horses, but she said he will be moved to another home because of special needs that require him to be in a stall for at least part of the day.
As soon as the clean up process begins, Seitz also invites anyone interested in taking any of the materials, including metal, from the fire site to contact her
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support. We had a girl who is in boarding school. I don’t know her; I’ve never heard of her. She called me and said, ‘I’m taking up a collection at my school, and I have a couple hundred dollars for you. I’m coming home to Charlottesville on Friday, and what can I do?’ ” Seitz said. “It’s just amazing. I want to get a big American flag because this is the American spirit right here. This is what makes our country great, and it makes me so proud to be American. And I know that sounds cheesy. It’s what gets you through these times. People come together, people you don’t even know.”