Oakley Stables arena collapses under weight of snow

Two riders and their horses make narrow escape

KELSEY POWER PHOTO Jean Robar looks on at the extent of damage done to the Oakley Stables arena.

KELSEY POWER PHOTO
Jean Robar looks on at the extent of damage done to the Oakley Stables arena.

Dwight Neaves and Kerri Rafuse were just finishing up riding their horses at Oakley Stables in Chester Grant at 11 a.m. on February 22 when they heard a crack.

“Five minutes after that first crack, when it came down, it just blew out the sides. It was just unreal,” said Ms Rafuse a few hours after the entire arena collapsed, apparently due to strain on the roof due to snow and ice.

“You see it on the news. There have been so many stables that have collapsed and you feel for those people, and then all of the sudden it’s you and here you are. It’s incredible.”

The arena was 13 years old, and Jean Robar said nothing like that had ever happened before.

“It’s the weather that’s done all this.”

She and her niece, Crystal Oakley, have been looking after the stables while the owners of the property, James and Sharon Oakley, are in Florida showing a special horse being trained for the Olympics.

“Any time there was snow on it before, it always fell off, but we had such a large amount of snow, and then the rain made it that much heavier.”

She called 911 immediately.

The Chester Basin fire department, along with other volunteers, responded to the incident.

“They had three trucks here and they were wonderful,” said Ms Robar, adding the volunteers worked hard to clear snow from the nearby stable roof.

“They couldn’t do anything to the arena roof because it was in, but they took all the snow off the roof where the horses are because there’s hay up above too, and they didn’t want that to collapse. The main thing is to save the horses.”

There were no injuries as a result of the incident, although the horses were spooked.

“I’m just happy nobody got hurt. Everything else can be replaced,” said Shawn Hardy, an instructor at the stables.

“We’ve had a month from hell. I spent all day yesterday getting my roof cleaned off just so this wouldn’t happen to me.”

The barn currently has 13 horses, some of which are owned by boarders. The arena is used for lessons and holds horse shows in the summer. It is the owners’ main source of income.

“She works very hard at everything, and her husband works harder than any man I know,” said Ms Robar of her sister and brother-in-law.

“They will build this back, because her whole life is horses, and she takes such good care of them. She will rebuild; I know she will.”

Ms Robar will continue to keep boarders until the owners of the property return.

Mr. Neaves, along with Craig Rafuse and Cody Stevens of the Chester Basin fire department, set up makeshift supports for the arena’s remaining roof in hopes of keeping it from collapsing further towards the stables and to salvage some of the hay.

Aside from the arena, several hundred dollars’ worth of hay will be lost.

“This is just like a nightmare. I just thank God those people got out. I can’t even imagine,” said Ms Robar.

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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