THE devastated owners of three horses that were left for dead by a heartless arsonist have spoken of their disgust at the attack.
And police have launched an investigation as a result of the blaze, which fire crews said would have killed at least one of them if they had been trapped for just minutes more.
Amy Nicholas, 21, owner of Bracken, whose stable was engulfed by flames, said: “I am 12 weeks pregnant which is a crucial time in a baby’s development and I’m having to go to the doctors later because of complications that have come about because off the stress of this situation.
“There are some sick people in this world and to start a fire and not even open the stable doors to let the horses escape disgusts me.
“I want whoever did this to know that not only did they nearly kill my horse but I don’t know whether my unborn child will survive this trauma.”
Fire crews were called to Higher Barn Farm, off Castle Hill Road, Hindley, at about 2am yesterday morning after a signalman on the nearby train line raised the alarm.
Flames billowed through the wall of the first stable just inches from the 10-year-old horse.
It had spread from the tack room, where equipment is kept, next door and the other two stables that each house another horse were minutes from devastation.
Crews managed to drag the animals from the stables and then started fighting the blaze, but the owner of the stables and two of the horses, Melanie Crook, says the incident has left her terrified.
The mum-of-three said: “The first I knew about the commotion when my partner’s dog, Diesel, started barking, I was frightened so I went to the window of my son’s bedroom and looked through the curtains and saw the blaze.
“I threw some clothes on and ran outside and the horses that had been freed were running around so I had to catch them and put them in the field.”
Melanie says that she was alone in the house with her 14-year-old son, Samson, at the time as her other children, aged seven and 11, were staying with their dad, and she had not yet told them about the incident.
She added: “It’s quite remote here so it’s clear that someone’s come out of their way to target us.
“The pony belongs to my daughter, Isabella, and I know she is going to be heart-broken when I tell her what’s gone on.
“As far as I’m concerned whoever’s done this intended to burn the horses alive, which is the most painful and horrible death I can imagine. For them to want to put us through that is absolutely disgusting.”
Melanie, 40, is so appalled by the crime that she is offering a £1,000 reward for anyone who provides information that leads to a conviction.
She estimates that the damage to the stables, plus having to replace all the equipment that was in the tack room, including expensive turn out rugs, is about £7,000.
On January 2 this year another farm nearby, Woodland Farm off Castle Hill Road, Hindley, was targeted in a mirror image attack in which two horses escaped after their stables were set alight.
A police spokesman said: “Police were called to an address on Castle Hill Road following reports of a fire. Officers attended and found that a building next to the stables was set alight. Fire damage spread to the stables and the fire service ensured that the three horses inside were safe.
“Detectives have launched inquiries into this arson and these are ongoing.
“Anyone who has any information is asked to call police on 0161 856 7295 or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”