13 of the rescued horses are at Tarraray Pet Retreat and looking for their new homes.
13 of the rescued horses are at Tarraray Pet Retreat and looking for their new homes.

Ponies escape a raging fire - now they need new homes

WHEN Vaughn Jones and his family drove onto his sister's property, the blackened, leafless trees were an eerie entrance to the devastation left behind from a raging bushfire.

From the loss, desolation and ruins, a story of passion, dedication and community has emerged through a herd of horses.

Just weeks ago, Vaughn Jones from Coffs Harbour lost his sister and her partner in the Rappville fire.

When Vaughn, his wife Julie and daughter Jessica and the deceased's children arrived at the ruined property they were faced with more than 100 dead animals.

"Words cannot express the devastation we saw and smelt," Julie said.

"Suddenly animals started to reappear, from where and how they escaped we don't know."

Jessica, 28, took it upon herself to find and rescue any horses that had survived the terrible blaze.

She walked around the 2000-acre property, rounding up 14 traumatised horses - big, small and some with foals in tow.

13 of the rescued horses are at Tarraray Pet Retreat and looking for their new homes.
13 of the rescued horses are at Tarraray Pet Retreat and looking for their new homes. Rachel Vercoe

Vaughn and nephew Stephen were busy near the house site and were shocked see 14 horses slowly walking in, calmly as a group, with Jessica walking behind them.

Secured, fed and watered, the next big mission was to transport them to the Coffs Coast so the Joneses could figure out their next step.

Three horses were generously placed in a paddock at Glenreagh and the remaining 11 at the Joneses' Sapphire property.

Damage to the town of Rappville after fire tore through the region.
Damage to the town of Rappville after fire tore through the region. Marc Stapelberg

From the several trips to the isolated Coongbar property, 30 bantam chickens and a duck were also rescued.

"Gwen (Vaughn's sister) loved her animals. We are so happy we could save the survivors," Julie said.

This is where Tarraray Pet Retreat owners Scott Vidler and Bec Williams come in.

"We got a call asking if we knew of anyone that could take the horses," Tarraray Pet Retreat owner Scott Vidler said.

The mix of miniatures, ponies and full sized horses had eaten out all the grass at the Joneses' two-acre property in three weeks.

"We spoke about it, Bec and I and we thought we'll help them out by taking the horses. We'll put them through our Facebook, try to move them onto homes and hopefully raise some money for the family," Mr Vidler said.

Team Rubicon volunteers clear up at the Small's property at Wyan near Rappville after the fires.
Team Rubicon volunteers clear up at the Small's property at Wyan near Rappville after the fires. Susanna Freymark

"The horses aren't tame but they could be. It's just about hand feeding them, getting them use to you and time."

Tarraray Pet Retreat is seeking people who will put time into the horses and stay committed to them.

Vaughn, Julie and Jessica have kept one foal whose mother had to be put down at the burnt-out property.

Rising from the ashes, he has appropriately been named Phoenix.

If you're interested in taking one of these horses, call Tarraray Pet Retreat on 6653 4423.



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