An early morning barn fire on February 27, 2016 at Darkin Riding Stables in Otterville, ON has claimed the lives of nine horses. 

“I [could] hear something popping, popping, popping,” says Whitbourne Henderson, who awoke around 4 am to the sound of fire, and quickly rushed to the scene. In an effort to free the livestock, Henderson attempted to enter the barn, but could not penetrate the thick wall of smoke. “I heard them stomping their feet in there … and I couldn’t help them.”

Darlene Kinnear, owner of Darkin Riding Stables, says that all nine of the horses that perished in the blaze - five of which she personally owned - were rescue horses used mostly for private trail rides, and birthday parties. Additionally, the horses were utilized by the St. Thomas Elgin Mental Health Association, as the horses had a calming effect on people.

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Kinnear estimates the damages at $50,000, but is understandably more concerned with the sudden loss of her horses. “Replacing my horses would be immeasurable to me, at this point. I would rather remember them last night when they were all happy and getting treats and kisses and hugs before I left for the night,” Kinnear says. “They’re not just horses. They all had a special part in our lives.”

Less than two months earlier, Kinnear moved her business to the stables, 65 kilometres east of London, but her insurance wasn’t set to begin until March 1 – just three days after the blaze.

This is the third barn fire in Ontario this year. Forty-three Standardbred horses were killed on January 4 at Classy Lane Stables Training Centre in Puslinch Township, ON. Twelve Arabian horses died in a fire on January 14 at a private farm on Highway 89 west of Mount Forest, ON. 

In Ladner BC, 20 horses escaped injury when the barn at Loranda Stables & Kitty Cottage caught fire on January 27, 2016. No people or animals were injured in that blaze.

Ontario Provincial police say the fire at Darkin Riding Stables is not considered suspicious.

With files from




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