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Equine Rescue of Aiken receives outpouring of concern and support following fire

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Following an April 3 fire that destroyed an eight-stall barn and injured a miniature horse, there has been a huge outpouring of concern and support for Equine Rescue of Aiken, according to the man in charge of the charitable organization.

“I’m a giver. I’m a doer. I like to do for other people,” said President and Executive Director Jim Rhodes on Monday. “I’m the one that sends supplies to hurricane victims and to other organizations across the country. To see it coming back to us now is pretty humbling.”

Fire at Equine Rescue of Aiken injures miniature horse, heavily damages barn

Rhodes’ phone has been ringing almost constantly in the aftermath of the catastrophe at Equine Rescue’s farm at 532 Glenwood Drive.

In addition to a host of individuals, those offering to help out locally include Aiken Saddlery, Aiken Tack Exchange and the Three Runs Plantation and Woodside Plantation communities.

“I’ve gotten calls from Canada and France,” Rhodes said.

The large number of sources from which donations of cash and checks have been received has made it difficult for Rhodes to keep track of the amount given, but it is more than $45,000 so far, he said.

And much more is needed.

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Even though the barn was insured, the payout won’t be enough to finance the construction of a new barn, Rhodes said.

In addition, all sorts of things that were in the destroyed barn need to be replaced.

Some of the items on the long list are appliances, tack, medical supplies, computers and printers.

Also lost were four tons of feed.

Rhodes reported that Whistle, the injured miniature horse was doing well while being treated for burns at Performance Equine Vets’ facility.

“He’s very resilient,” Rhodes said.

Whistle was surrendered to Equine Rescue after being attacked by a dog and suffering extensive damage to his nose, lips and jaw on the right side of his head.

The miniature horse has undergone multiple surgeries already and more operations are planned.

“He’s a survivor, and we’re going to survive, too,” said Rhodes, who had surgery to remove skin cancer recently.

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The cause of the fire has not been determined.

Rhodes was attending an auction when the blaze started in the early evening.

He said his wife, Debbie Henderson-Rhodes, heard a loud explosion before she saw the flames.

She rushed to get Whistle out of his stall, where the shavings inside were burning.

Another small fire in the area where the feed was stored had to be put out Easter Sunday.

At first, “I saw all of this as a huge brick wall, and I wasn’t sure how we would get past it,” Rhodes said. “Today, I see it as a little speed bump, and I know we’ll get over it. We’re going to be stronger and better.”

Equine Rescue provides assistance to unwanted horses and tries to find them permanent homes.

The organization also is known as Aiken Equine Rescue.

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