Early in the morning of May 31, a fire destroyed the barn that the event rider Boyd Martin was renting from Phillip Dutton at Dutton's True Prospect Farm in Pennsylvania. There were 11 horses in the barn at the time, and three people living in the upstairs apartment. Lillian Heard, Caitlin Silliman and Ryan Wood were awakened by the fire and sounded the alarm. Along with Phillip and Boyd, they managed to rescue five horses from the blaze. The surviving horses were transported to the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center. Six other horses perished. Lillian, Caitlin and Ryan were treated and released from Jennersville Hospital.
The horses in Boyd's barn included numerous upper level eventers, some up-and coming horses, as well as the personal horses of Caitlin Silliman and Lillian Heard: Lillian's Ariel, a young mare competing at the Preliminary level, was one of the horses that died. The other horses that did not make it out were Call Me Ollie, Charla, Phantom Pursuit, Cagney Herself and Summer Breeze. Survivors included Catch a Star, Ambassador's Rose, Otis Barbotiere, Minotaure du Passoir and Neville Bardos, the horse that Boyd rode at the 2010 World Equestrian Games. After several weeks of treatment for burns and smoke inhalation, all five horses have been released from the clinic, but only one, Ambassador's Rose, has so far been able to return to work. The prognosis for the remaining horses is unclear, although they are reported to be healing rapidly.
The eventing community was shocked by the tragedy, and immediately united around all those affected by the fire. In the weeks since, there have been numerous fundraisers to help defray costs for Boyd as well as to help Ryan, Lillian and Caitlin, who lost all of their possessions in the fire. The outpouring of support has been immense, with charity auctions at various events, bake sales, special schooling events and an online charity auction on eBay. Many individuals and companies have stepped up to offer their support. For instance, EcoGold, a Canadian company that sponsors Boyd, donated 50 percent of proceeds from orders of their saddle pads to Boyd's team, raising over $8,000 in two weeks. At one charity auction, $14,000 was raised - then Alan Shinton, a generous supporter of eventing, stepped up to match those funds, bringing the total to $28,000. The June 12 Lumber River Starter Horse Trials at the Carolina Horse Park in Raeford, N.C. donated a portion of their funds to victims of the fire. Closer to home, Full Gallop Farm in Aiken made their June combined test a benefit for the True Prospect recovery funds.
Separate, tax deductible funds have been set up for Caitlin, Lillian and Ryan. There is also a general relief fund. To donate or for more information, visit the website at South California Equestrian Sports (www.scesports.org) or go to Boyd Martin's site. (www.boydandsilvamartin.com)
Boyd Martin and his team make their winter home in Aiken where they are based at Bridle Creek Equestrian Community. Fire investigators in Pennsylvania have determined that the fire was accidental and electrical in origin.