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Dreamcatcher looked at me questioningly: ‘Why have you abandoned me—you know I only thrive in the routine of royalty?’ As re-homed customers are readying for a show we had all trained hard for, we drove back into ugliness. The sky was a bruised yellow-purple with a sense of doomsday all about. I have always loved the fact that we get a couple of hours of extra sunshine this far up the valley—now it is congested, heavy darkness with the inversion holding the smoke down. “The firefighters were now lighting a controlled burn this side of Wolverine Creek where the flames have started jumping over. An excavator and dozer were building a ‘cat guard’ or fuel free zone. If they don’t make this fire break there is a whole new buffet of cedars and deadwood waiting for flame’s gastric delight. We’ve moved the rescued animals. I am so sad at the moment. I feel so helpless. Our dreams can’t go up in smoke. We continue to sit this out.”

I wrote the next night: “Imagine this. Five

minutes from your home there is a conflagration beyond anything a movie with special effects could produce. You are looking at a mountain. You only know this because in the blackness it is outlined by what looks like a steady line of torch-bearers. No, the torch-bearers have not got the Whistler Olympic dates wrong—Copperdome is totally on fire! The silhouette is filling in as the flames move towards each other. Now the entire mountain is on fire. The whoosh of dead trees igniting like matchsticks is followed by javelins of fire, exploding like fireworks pinwheels. Deafening crashes are followed by a crackling that sounds as if a huge thin sheet of metal is being bent back and forth. The air is hot to breathe but is somehow clearer than the smoke we have been inhaling all day. Tempers are short. When I snapped at Dana for smoking he snapped back ‘at least this is filtered!’ Maybe we ought to get out of here. “Wild animals are disoriented—bats are trying to

take up residence in the house. Wildcats have become a worry near town as the homeless predators are forced to seek shelter near unwelcome human neighbours. We are taking our clients’ horses in full training and our competition prospects to Vancouver. We will live in the trailer and at least we can ride until this is over. We will rotate with Dana at the bunk house to stand vigil. It feels like the beginning of the end. Enough self pity—people are sleeping in the school gym on makeshift cots! I still have my favourite duvet—and my partner—next to me.”

Gary Brewster, a Grand Prix jumper friend, sent

his articulated truck up from Vancouver. His staff, John, Claudia and I, together with client Jo Green, loaded thirteen competition horses from one of

the initial evacuation sites. We began our journey to take up residence at a fellow dressage rider and friend Rochelle Kilberg’s South Vancouver barn. Here we could wait to find out our fate, while spending pent up energy in a positive way and try to regain our composure with familiar riding routines. I toured, for what

Our filly Lovanna by Lokomotion.

could be the last time, our empty barns and tack rooms, the quiet indoor arena, the stripped lab, the silent foaling stalls, recalling thousands of hours of pure passion—we love what we do. Every board, every rail, every blade of grass existed with a bit of ourselves built into it. My tears mirrored previous ones of frustration and joy; from witnessing another safe arrival in the foaling barn to that pirouette finally looking like a pirouette as reflected back in the arena mirrors. Funny, I never really felt great remorse at the idea of losing the house. The barns and fields reflect what we are all about. People shook their heads at our decision to build a horse operation here. We chose to live among the raw power of mother nature, living peacefully with bear, moose and eagles as our neighbors. We wanted our youngsters to thrive on virgin valley grass, water from a waterfall, pure mountain air and endless sandy trails to cavort along. We believed in what we were doing. Now she seemed to have made the decision to reclaim what was hers and eliminate the imprint we have so lovingly made. We could only wait to see what would happen next.

Jill Dingle Megan Livingstone

Look for part two in our July/August edition.


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