True neighbours help each other in need. And this is what happened with the Rothenberger family after a part of their Gestut Erlenhof burnt down.
A devastating fire on 28 February 2019 wiped out the Rothenbergers' indoor school and a stable block. Five horses died in the fire.
Linsenhoff Offers Ad Interim Stabling and Riding Facilities
Gestut Erlenhof is located in Bad Homburg, Germany, in the outskirts of Frankfurt. Former German team rider Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff, whose home and yard Schafhof is located in Kronberg 15 kilometers down the road, has offered the Rothenberger kids to stable their show horses there and train at her facilities until the family has found a more permanent solution in the future.
The first few days the horses were spread out over barns of several friends. Semmieke's Dissertation and Geisha came from the CDI Lier and went to Marga and Ralph Westhoff's yard, while Sönke's Cosmo, Santiano, as well as Golden Girl, Gondor, Valencia and Flying Surprise were housed at the Krause family.
Looking at the future and for keeping the horses in training, the show horses have now moved to Linsenhoff's Schafhof. Dissertation, Geisha, Santiano and Cosmo relocated to Kronberg
"We have been offered nice stalls there, while we tried to piece our life back together and begin training again," said Gonnelien Rothenberger.
More help has been given by friends and family in the rebuilding of the yard.
"Words can't describe what we experience," said Gonnelien Rothenberger. "I don't know where to start. I want to thank all for the immense support. Thanks to the family for help, to the vets, the helpers, the police, the firemen, to all who wrote us and offered us help. We will never recover what we lost. Our whole life has been broken into pieces. But at the same time we are so grateful for the support. Our sponsors helped us already with tack."
Life After the Fire
The house now works on generators and there is no water. Fortunately the horse lorry is still functioning and currently being used for the toilet and shower.
"Our entire family is home again. Many have called us (or me) helicopter parents. And maybe we are that," Gonnelien added. "I feel much better now that all our children with their friends are here the entire day. Sven, Semmie and I were spared of experience live that dreadful morning. It is horrible to hear from others what the home stayers had to experience."
The fire has been a traumatizing event for the entire family.
"Sonke and Sanneke are reproaching themselves whether they couldn't have saved more horses or should have done it differently," Gonnelien explained. "Because there was straw and hay above the stalls, they didn't realize how fast the fire spread. They were afraid that that not a single horse would make it out alive. They struggle with that. Horses that didn't want to leave the stall even though their doors were open. Horses who were free but then ran back into the stall, galloping past my children, burning. They looked so badly that my children didn't even recognize their own horses . They only had black in front of their eyes, the heat that burnt their eyes."
Sönke was fortunate that his Olympic mount Cosmo ended up following him out of the stable, even though it was hard to open his stall door because of the heat, but at the same time he saw his two young hopefuls Luna and Zum Gluck perish in the fire.
"It is so terrible to process this nightmare," Gonnelien stated. "Nights torture us."
The injured mares Luna and Kantate as well as the rising Grand Prix horse St. Anton are still in the equine clinic. The mares are still in critical condition, but St. Anton is on the road to improvement.
Erlenhof Burnt Before
The fire on 28 February 2019 was not the first at Gestut Erlenhof.
The website of the fire brigade Bad Homburg reports that a first fire was in 1971 when a barn burnt down. In 1974 the main stable building burnt down and 35 horses perished. Also in 1980 and 1988 there were two fires at the yard. In those two fires 37 horses lost their lives.
The Rothernberger family moved into the property in the 1990s. In relation to the 2019 fire, experts believe that the cause is most likely an electrical failure near the stables, instead of arson.
Life Goes On
Life goes on as well and some of the Rothenberger's broodmares are given birth to their foals. While the foaling usually takes place not at their yard, the Rothenbergers do rear their young stock at home. On 3 March their broodmare Hilary by Cendy (by ) delivered a healthy colt by Totilas. Mare and foal are based at Dieter Kellermanns and will stay there also this summer due to what happened.
Photos © Barbara Schnell