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Therapy Miniature Horses narrowly escape Athens wildfires

The nine Gainesville Therapy Miniature Horses narrowly escaped the fire in East Attica and are well and safe.

The facility of the Gentle Carousel Greece Therapy Miniature Horses is based in Rafina one of the coastal resorts in East Attica where the wild fires of Monday killed more than 88 people.

The nine therapy miniature horses and the facility staff were caught up right in the middle of the fire that broke out around 5 o’ clock Monday afternoon on 23. July 2018. They And they were rescued.

“All therapeutic horses have survived and will be able to continue their work,” the Gentle Carousel Greece Therapy Miniature Horses posted on July 27.

“The horses’ behavior that night was inexplicably calm. They did not have any difficulty in anything … they just obeyed. Snaked like sardines, 4 of them in a small van, 2 in a smaller one and the other 3 walking on foot with the brave Said the man who takes care of them as his children, we tried to approach the harbor.

The sky was a black sheet .. the fire waved and melted everything .. in a few minutes it would have reached the facility. Breathing was difficult, the eyes wet …

Closing the gates I threw a look behind me .. when I come back everything will ashes I thought. Nothing will be the same anymore. And yet the fire stopped 30 meters from our first eucalyptus! >Agios Nikolas .. I feel it! We returned to the stable at 3 o’clock in the morning. All was untouched by the fire but our gaze was on the opposite burned hills and our thoughts on the people that were lost. Indeed, nothing will be the same! We continued to pour water all night together with our heroic neighbors Angeliki Karagounaki and cousin Xenophon! The photo is devoted to the loneliness and pain we all feel.”

The fate of the horses and their rescue made it to Gainesville media in the USA.

Gainesville-born horses dodge fire in Greece

Some miniature therapy horses can use some loving themselves right now.

The horses are in Greece at a facility that is part of Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses of Gainesville and were caught in the hellish wildfires that killed more than 80 people in the area of the coastal resort towns of Mati and Rafina, about 18 miles from Athens.

Gentle Carousel Education Director Debbie Garcia-Bengochea said the horses and their handlers had to run about a mile dodging flames to get to safety on the shore after their evacuation by vehicles was deemed impassable.

“They were right in the middle of the fire. They put them in minivans initially but the roads were so blocked with cars and smoke. It happened so fast — it went from the mountain down to the towns in 20 minutes,” Garcia-Bengochea said. “They had to unload from the vehicles and run for the sea. They made it to the sea. I think because of how much training and experience they have…they were able to stay calm enough to be able to run through the fire.”

Gentle Carousel started the Greek operation, called Magic Garden, several years ago at the request of the country. It is named after Magic, one of Gentle Carousel’s most beloved horses.

Of the nine Magic Garden horses, eight were were born and trained in Gainesville and then shipped to Greece. The ninth horse, Giselle, was rescued in Greece and brought to Gainesville for training.

The horses provide comfort to children in a nearby orphanage, in Syrian refugee camps and in hospitals. Magic Garden is in Rafina and was damaged by the fire.

Garcia-Bengochea said the orphanage at which the horses work was completely destroyed. Children can grow up in the orphanage* and stay until they are age 21. It also takes care of elderly people who do not have families.

“We know right now that 64 of the orphans escaped the flames. There is no news right now about the elderly. They are still searching,” said Garcia-Bengochea on Friday, adding she is going to Greece soon with supplies.

Once the horses were unloaded from the vans, they had to dodge burning cars, buildings and fire to make it to the shore.

Many people who tried to flee the rapidly moving fire by getting to the water did not make it. News accounts said bodies were found within 50 feet of the sea.

Garcia-Bengochea praised the horses’ handlers for their calmness and expertise in getting to the beach.

“Each horse had a person. It wasn’t a straight stretch — they were going around cars and flames. They were going as fast as they could go and still navigate around that,” she said. “All of the buildings surrounding the facility are burned. (Magic Garden) miraculously survived. They had five minutes from the time the fire came to load horses and go. They never thought they would see the facility again. It’s damaged but the structures are still standing.” gainesville.com

*Please, note that Lyreion orphanage hosts 45 children and 25 elderly. All children and elderly were rescued. KTG saw a report on a Greek TV channel, where nun talked about how the elderly were rescued. “Three nuns and several volunteers carried them with their hands away from the building.”

The Orphanage has been almost completely damaged by the fire.

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