The missing horse who got loose after running from a barn fire that killed one horse at Maffitt Lake Farms in Cumming, Iowa, on Friday night, Dec. 2, was found Sunday evening at a nearby property. The horse, Ozzie, belongs to veterinarian Dr. Rachelle LaPrade of Des Moines, Iowa.
“One of our neighbors who is a farmer was out and noticed that his neighbor’s cow pasture fence was down, so he gave him a call,” said Libby Hott, daughter of Melinda Antisdel, who owns Maffitt Lake Farms. “So that gentlemen went and took his Gator out to his pasture, and he found Ozzie out with the cows. He still had his blanket on and all four wraps, and he didn’t have a scrape on him.”
The fire at Maffit Lake Farms was first noticed by a young rider, Ella Johnson, who was on her pony in the indoor ring when she smelled smoke and called for her mother.
The rider’s mother, Angi Johnson, called Maffitt Lake Farms’ trainer Kyle Muckler, who in turn called farm owner Antisdel.
“When [my mom] first got down to the barn, the tractor was pulled in [to the barn], and she said she saw the tractor on fire, and it had already caught the ceiling on fire,” said Hott.
“Between her and one of our grooms, they were able to run through the barn and open all the stalls and chase the horses out,” Hott added.
Local news organization KCCI Des Moines reported that fire crews arrived on the scene at approximately 5:40 p.m. The 31-stall barn and indoor arena continued burning well into Saturday afternoon—Hott said the barn had just been stocked with a winter supply of hay.
What remains of Maffitt Lake Farms’ 31-stall barn and indoor arena after crews were able to put the fire out. Photo courtesy of Libby Hott.
Twenty-nine horses were in the barn at the time of the fire, and all were chased out except one, a gelding named Red owned by boarder Kellie Staker.
“He was rearing up and wouldn’t leave his stall, so they had to move on to the next one,” Hott said.
Local horseman and police spent several hours after the horses got out tracking down and catching the loose horses, all of whom with the exception of Ozzie were found within a few hours of being set loose.
The Maffitt Lake Farms hunter/jumper boarding barn was founded by Antisdel more than 30 years ago. It’s currently managed by Libby and her husband Tim Hott with trainer Kyle Muckler. Tim’s horse show management company, Hott Horse Shows, has run A-circuit shows out of the show facility part of the property, the Maffitt Lake Equestrian Center LLC, since 2009. The show facility was not part of the fire, and Libby said the boarding barn horses have been moved into the show facility’s permanent stalls.
Rider Emily Pope started a GoFundMe page called Maffitt Lake Recovery Fund on Friday night, and as of Monday afternoon, Dec. 5, more than $23,000 dollars have been donated. Antisdel asked that people stop donating to the page and donate to rescue AHeinz57 instead. Antisdel said their insurance would pay to rebuild the farm.
“We were really lucky in that we have a whole semi-[truck] load of feed left over from the horse show season. We have a whole semi of shavings; some local horseman had brought in a flat bed of hay, and another is bringing a semi load of hay,” Libby said. “And actually all our horse show stuff was packed up on trailers to go to Ocala [Fla.] for the winter, so we have all our horse show stuff. We have blankets. We’re just very appreciative of the community that came up to help us last night.
“I just want to thank my mom and our groom, Chuy Mendez, and the Johnsons and Allison Keller, because those are the people who saved these horses’ lives,” Libby continued. “My mom said she was opening all the stalls, and then if she couldn’t get the horse to come out, Chuy stayed very calm through the whole thing and was a huge hero to her.”
Libby said the money that was raised on GoFundMe will go to replace client’s tack and equipment that was lost in the fire, and any remaining money will be donated to AHeinz57. Libby said she and her mother are already meeting with construction contractors to discuss rebuilding.
Muckler posted the following statement to his personal Facebook page early Saturday morning.
“Thank you to everyone who has expressed their concern and love over this tragic event. As of tonight we are still looking for one horse, but we did lose one in the fire,” he wrote. “It is truly amazing to watch the horse community come together in this difficult time. I appreciate all of the love, and if we need anything, I know we have the amazing support of everyone to go back on. We will rebuild, and we will get through this. Again, thank you.”