Horse evacuation

Grace Cowgill from the Five Horseshoes stables was shocked when a forest fire threatened her horses recently, and surprised by the offers of immediate help from friends, other stables and passers-by. Here, she relates how the horses were evacuated for the night as the fire blazed ever closer.

I had a telephone call from Bev at Pinetrees to ask if I could be on standby to help collect and stable some horses from The Crazy Horse Ranch in Loulé due to the fires in the vicinity – I agreed and my sister and I proceeded to get our own yard and horses together should we be needed.

At about 4pm, we saw a plume of white smoke rising behind our own yard and jumped into my car to go and investigate. Sure enough, what you never think will happen to you was happening – we had a fire in the valley below, within a kilometre of the back of the yard. The wind was northerly and I knew then we would have to evacuate.

I telephoned Bev immediately to ask for help. She gave me excellent advice to tack all the horses up in readiness to ride them away if necessary. We returned to the yard and went about putting saddles and bridles on everything. Then people started arriving and the phone was constantly ringing with offers of help. By 5.30pm, thanks to everyone’s help, all our horses were out of the yard, loaded into trailers, or being walked down to the main road to be loaded into António’s lorry – which had come all the way from Albufeira.

We had a terrifying experience, but thanks to the fantastic amount of help from both friends and people I have never even met before, neither horses nor individuals were injured. The fire came unbelievably close and we were right to leave as quickly as we did.

All the Five Horseshoes team – myself, David, Margaret and Sharon – cannot thank everyone enough, not only for the help that was given, but for the speed and professionalism with which everyone acted!

Our special thanks also go to Bev at Pinetrees for the speedy organisation and for looking after our naughty Shetland pony stallion – Pepper – we’re so glad he escaped the barbecue! Thanks also to Lyn at Quinta dos Amigos and her trailer driver, Zoe, Martin and Sophie – for the use of their trailer and to Sophie for riding Pearl down to the main road. And thanks to António from Horses Paradise – whom I have not yet met – for the speed at which he got his lorry from Albufeira over to us to take the remaining horses and Centro Hípico, Loulé, for having Jazmin for the night. Also to Custódio for his offer of help and stabling.

Our biggest thanks to Kurt, Daniel and their families who made us and the horses all so welcome – we had never even met before Tuesday – they just arrived after seeing the fire and offered paddocks for the horses. And all our non-horsey friends, including Dolores and Jorge from the Irish Sea Restaurant and Bar in São Brás, who did amazingly well looking after our Shetland pony stallion, Pepper, and to Debbie, Tina and Tony, who all saw the fire from their houses and turned up to help.