'Someone did this'

Milford. Anastasia Ryman, owner of the farm on Schocopee Road in Milford, where 11 horses perished in a fire on Aug. 30, has written a first-person account of that devastating day.

11 Sep 2019 | 01:40

August 30, 2019, was a beautiful day that quickly became a nightmare. We lost 11 horse friends who died in the fire that was set to our barn.

That day, the horses were turned out when my husband, Eddie, left the farm for a few hours to run some errands. Never could he imagine what he would return to.

The horses had been led into the barn and locked in their stalls. The barn doors, one of which hadn’t been closed in years, were both closed. Someone did this: the horses didn’t lock themselves in, and the doors wouldn’t close on their own.

Madeleine Ribacka of Milford lost her six “children” to the fire as well. Madeleine has lived in the farm house for years with her horses nearby. She foaled several of her horses on the property. "They saw me before they saw their mothers," she said.

Madeleine lives life for her horses. This cruel and senseless act devastated her. She lost all of her horse’s feed, hay, and tack as well as blankets and other supplies, and sentimental bridles and leads. She will lovingly remember her beautiful friends as Magic, Lady, Star, Danny, Breeze, and Kaylee-Bell.

Five of the horses that perished belonged to the late Fran Johanns of Mount Hope, N.Y. Fran had her horses transferred to our farm between February and May of this year. Franny was lifelong friends with Madeleine. They both rode in their younger years. I loved hearing all of their stories about horses, and shows, and foals. I learned so much from listening to them. And both ladies shared so much practical horse keeping advice with me.

Eddie liked Franny right away and graciously provided her horses with a forever home. We sadly lost Franny on Sunday, Sept. 2. Franny died in the hospital after fighting to survive gallbladder surgery. Her little old body finally gave up. Franny was met by her beloved horses Willy, Shark, Buffy, Knoxy, and Prost.

We will continue to care for her horse Uptown, who suffered in the fire and lost his friends.Two of the 13 horses boarded at our farm survived the fire.

Wilma escaped unscathed, and Uptown suffered severe burns. Eddie says that Uptown was on fire as he escaped the barn when the door was opened by Milford Fire Department Chief Jeff Christensen. Uptown was taken to a top equine veterinary facility in New Jersey. He is expected to make a full recovery and will be returning home to us early next week. We can’t wait to have him back.

A private horse farm outside of Pine Island, N.Y., graciously and unselfishly covered Uptown’s medical bill. Thank you for your generosity!

A complete shock

No words can describe what I saw when I pulled up to the property on the afternoon of Aug. 30. When I arrived at 3:20 p.m., the barn was completely gone. There was only a smoking pile of rubble left where our beautiful barn had been. I was in complete shock. All I could say was, “Oh, my God.”

I went to the horses who survived, and they ran up to meet me at the gate. Uptown was so badly burned that I had to turn away. It broke my heart to see how this magnificent horse was suffering.

The barn that Eddie Ryman spent 16 months and every extra penny renovating tragically burned to the ground before our eyes. Everything was lost. Our precious horses. Time, money, tack, feed, hay, and all the other supplies that go along with owning and caring for horses. Eddie lost all of his tools. Our tractor was also lost to the fire.

Eddie would arrive after dawn to begin the day’s project, feed the horses, mow the field, or to do whatever needed doing that day. The day before the fire he was building a brand new front wall and was planning how he would build a Dutch door. He had just finished building two new stalls and a tack room a few weeks prior. We painted the tack room together as a family with our son.

Eddie put his heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into restoring that barn. He fell in love with every single horse who lived there and did everything he could to make them happy and comfortable. Recently he was so excited to tell me that the horses were smiling at him. He loved being at the farm every day. He helped Madeleine and Franny in any way that he could. Every day he felt proud of what he had accomplished. Eddie kept pictures of all the work he did renovating the barn. He had gotten so far in a year and a half, and was so close to being finished.

As I looked at the pictures of the renovation progress, I was in tears. All that work, all those hundreds of hours spent lovingly renovating this old barn, was all gone. I was so proud of my husband for taking on such a huge project. We were so proud of what that barn was going to be. We had planned to build some smaller barns when the main barn was finished. We wanted to board, but we also wanted to acquire our own horses for trail rides and lessons. I wanted to take a section of the farm and set up a jumping arena. We wanted to be able to provide visitors with a horse experience in Milford.

We had the next five years planned out. Our dreams were torn away from us so violently.The horses that we lost were our friends. They were our confidants. They were our reason for getting up in the morning. They gave us a purpose. They will be missed, and they will always be in our hearts.

We want to carry on and move forward from this heart breaking tragedy. We want to heal, recover, and rebuild. Now more than ever we feel the need to keep horse culture alive in Milford. And as long as we’re around to do it, there will be horses on the hill.

We are currently raising funds to care for the horses and to rebuild a barn for them. Our GoFundMe page is gofundme.com/f/barn-fire-relief-fund. Monetary donations as well as hay, tools, or anything you think could help us can be brought in person to Eddie Ryman at 171 Schocopee Road in Milford.