Ten therapeutic horses killed, family grieves

Foxy is a small black horse that stands in the open pasture of Vail Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center. She is the only therapeutic riding horse left at the center. Ten others died when a fire broke out in a barn where the horses were kept.

"They depend on you for their safety, for their food and everything... and now their gone," says Owner Mike McGee.

Ten horses, two ducks, a goat, and a pot belly pig all died in the fire. The horses were all trained to help people with special need, training that takes years.

"They were therapy horses," says Mike, "They acted as therapists when you put a special needs person on the horse."

It's also a great personal loss to Mike. He says that during the extensive training, there is a bond of trust that forms between man and animal.

"Yeah, you become... They're your partner. That's what hurts I think," he explains.

Mike points out a picture of himself atop a horse named Harley, and recall his thoughts when he first found out about the fire around 4:30am Thursday morning.

"One of my horses, Harley, was [possibly] inside. Then you are thinking, 'was he out in the pasture, or was he inside.'"

Harley, who was a former Toledo Police Horse with the mounted patrol, had not been in the pasture, but was among those killed.

Yet while going through tragedy, Mike tells his family they must find strength for the good of those they help.

"[For] a lot of special needs people, this is a big thing in their life. So we need to pull it together and move on," says Mike.

He says their other five horses will immidiately start the training program to be used for therapy, and will be there for the people who need them.

A fund has been set up at the First Federal Bank on Navarre. Donations are being given to the name Vail Meadows Therapy Riding.

There has also been a benefit race scheduled to help the organization.