Advanced eventer Martha McDowell is hard at work rebuilding after a fire destroyed her barn in Billings, Mont., and took the lives of 19 horses on April 23.
In the month following the fire, McDowell has received a flood of donations and gifts from around the country. “People have been awesome about getting us tack and blankets and sheets,” she said. “We’ve had boxes of new things come from SmartPak, Bit of Britain and State Line Tack. We’ve had horse donations from Leigh Gray at Winner’s Circle Ranch, who gives horses a second home after the race track. She sent us four Thoroughbreds, and we’ve had people give us horses to lease indefinitely. We are definitely on the road to recovery.”
While not everything was destroyed in the fire, there is no electricity on the property yet. McDowell is currently leasing a facility down the road so that she and her existing group of boarders can reassemble. She hopes to rebuild her barn by July and possibly an indoor arena by the winter if funds allow.
“To rebuild new, that’s going to be our biggest effort that goes beyond our means right now,” she said.
McDowell said she’s been able to secure horses for most of her students. “That’s really the thing that’s the most healing thing of all. It’s not like you can replace the horse you lost, but there are other horses out there, and if you’re a horse person, just being around them is therapeutic,” she said.
The cause of the fire hasn’t yet been determined, but McDowell was told that it wasn’t electrical after electrical engineers examined the scene. The official report is expected in the next week.
The Broussard family has set up a fund via Rebecca Farm to help McDowell, and Southern California Equestrian Sports is another place where anyone can make a tax-deductable donation by choosing McDowell’s name from the list.
Virginia-based eventer Sara Kozumplik is also donating funds to McDowell. On June 2, her Overlook Farm will host schooling jumper rounds starting at 9 a.m. in Berryville, Va.