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Nonprofit Mourning Loss of 7 Horses Following Destructive Fire

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The fire occurred on Thursday, June 7 The fire occurred on Thursday, June 7
The organization offered people with special needs riding lessons The organization offered people with special needs riding lessons
Only one of the nonprofit's eight horses survived Only one of the nonprofit's eight horses survived
ROCKBRIDGE, Va. (WVIR) -

A devastating fire ripped through SpiritHorse of the Shenandoah Valley's barn early on Thursday, June 7.

The nonprofit organization in the valley that offers therapeutic horse lessons to people with special needs is mourning the loss of seven horses after that fire.

Smoke is the only one out of the eight horses to have escaped Thursday night's barn fire at SpritHorse of the Shenandoah Valley.

"The barn was fully engulfed, there were attempts made to rescue the horses but it was already too far gone," says Brenda Spillers, the CEO of SpiritHorse.

The electrical fire broke out around 2 a.m., and burned the metal barn to the ground.

"All we could do was sit and cry,” says Spillers.

Spillers says these seven horses were like family.

"We bury our babies, our children," says Spillers.

Liberty, who’s the SpiritHorse mascot, was one of the horses killed by the flames. He would’ve turned three this July.

"These horses gave so much love, and they gave so much life to so many people," says Spillers.

The loss is just as great for those who have visited SpiritHorse.

"This therapy center has blessed us greatly," says Christa Johns, whose son took lessons at the location.

Johns’ son Aidan is one of 55 riders currently receiving therapy at SpiritHorse.

Aidan has cerebral palsy, and riding these horses has changed his life.

“He is happy when he's here,” says Johns. “He smiles and laughs."

"Some of these kids come through, they've never smiled before, the first time they smile is when they get on the back of one of these horses,” says Krystal Carr, a volunteer. “Kids that couldn't walk before are starting to be able to walk."

The therapy center lost all of its equipment and tack and grain in the fire, but the community is pulling together to offer support.

"A lot of local farms - Whistling Ridge - a lot of local riders that know about what we're doing, donating supplies and some farmers have donated hay," says Carr.

The road to recovery will not be easy, and it’s expected to cost thousands of dollars. However, SpiritHorse volunteers say they have too many people relying on them to give up hope.

"These folks, their physical and their mental capabilities really depend on us and their improvements,” says Spillers. “So, we don't let them lose what they've already accomplished. We're going to rebuild as fast as possible.”

If you want to help out, you can donate money to the SpritHorse of the Shenandoah Valley account at any SunTrust bank location. A GoFundMe page has also been started.

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