Family. It’s the word that inevitably comes up regarding Carney Performance Horses when clients discuss their overall impression of the local barn that, until recently, housed meticulously trained show horses.
It’s a concept that’s come into laser-sharp focus since Saturday when the barn in western Bartow County just outside Rome succumbed to an engulfing fire early that morning. A total of 19 equines died in the blaze, almost all of which belonged to clients boarding them there for enjoyment and show training.
“The tragedy that took place Saturday has rocked all of our worlds,” says Gregg Cofield, whose daughters ride and show horses with barn owner and renowned stock horse trainer Blake Carney. The family’s most recently acquired horse, a striking bay paint mare named Cookie, died in the fire.
“She was probably the best horse we ever owned,” Cofield says of the 10-year-old mare. “We had high hopes for her.”
His daughter, Greer Cofield, had planned to begin showing Cookie in all-around stock horse events like showmanship, equitation and horsemanship. An online support group made up of other CPH clients is helping her process her grief.
“Thankfully, she has the CPH family. She’s got 18 other people who are dealing with the exact same thing she is,” her father says.
His other main concern is for Carney, who lost not only his livelihood in the flames but his main residence, which was attached to the barn. He also lost most of his personal belongings, including clothing. Gear essential to running a horse business — a sizable collection of things like specialty horse tack and blankets — is also gone.
Gregg Cofield wants Carney to know he’s supported as he begins the long road toward rebuilding his business. He says he and other clients are going to be right there waiting for their trainer when the facility is rebuilt and it’s time to purchase new horses and return to the show pen.
“He is a phenomenal person, a genuine person,” Gregg Cofield says. “His training skills on top of that are absolutely incredible.”
How to help
Carney is well known among riders active with the Pinto Horse Association of America. He’s coached clients to multiple world show wins with that organization, and he’s also active with the American Paint Horse Association. The horse show world immediately swung into action as news of the fire spread, and the term “family” began to take on an even larger meaning.
Amanda Palmer, who is active with both of the aforementioned associations on a state level in Florida, got the ball rolling for an online auction that will benefit CPH.
“He has to rebuild his barn. His clients have lost horses. This is just a devastating event,” Palmer says. “Everybody in the horse community just wants to do something. This is huge to our community.”
Current donations on the “Friends of Carney Performance Horses” Facebook page include stallion breedings, show clothing and tack, professional photo packages and more. Palmer says a company called Pro Horse Services will handle the auction and will accept donations through Nov. 2. Those interested in donating can do so through the Facebook page where they will find a link to a donor commitment form. The actual auction will run online Nov. 4 though Nov. 8. Anyone who wants to bid on auction items should watch the Facebook page for instructions on how to do so.
Those who prefer to make monetary donations can do so on gofundme.com on the “Carney Performance Horses Fire Relief Fund” page. As of Monday afternoon, donations were nearing $50,000.
For Palmer, watching the auction donations and the gofundme.com contributions roll in is gratifying in the midst of a frightening and catastrophic situation.
“When something like this happens, you don’t know what to do. You have to do something because you just feel so helpless,” she says.