Trainer Brett Cavanough says it is fortunate that they only lost fences and 125-acres of winter feed.
ALBURY trainer Brett Cavanough says luck and waterbombing helicopters helped save 13 of his brood mares from being wiped out in a bushfire.
Howling winds and extreme heat pushed the firestorm through his spelling property, between Chiltern and Barnawartha, on Sunday afternoon.
Cavanough usually spells 30 horses at the farm but in a “freak” of fortune picked up a number of his better gallopers, such as The Monstar and Just A Bullet, early last week.
“If we had 30 horses there we would have definitely lost something, there would have been trouble,” Cavanough said.
“I don’t know how they survived, the ones that were there, it’s just amazing.
“If you go to the house, it’s crazy, it’s like a war zone.”
Cavanough said more stock would have been lost in the area, about 30km southwest of Wodonga, if not for fighters and the helicopters.
“They tell me there was one property with a bunch of cattle in the corner and the fire was coming flat out and that big helicopter, I think they call it Elvis, he waterbombed the cattle and the grass and saved the lot,” he said.
“They reckon it was just amazing.”
Cavanough said he was at his Albury stables when Sharman, the property owner, called to say it was getting smoky and they needed to act.
But the trainer was stopped at a police roadblock.
“We didn’t get to the guts of the fire, the roadblocks stopped us, but there was plenty of petrified people in there, it was pretty bloody dangerous,” he said.
“They were lucky that the rain came and put it out.”
While Cavanough was stuck behind police lines, Sharman pushed the 13 brood mares into a paddock with the least fuel.
“I called him and he said, ‘it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming’,” Cavanough said.
“I felt like I wanted to talk to him but I was only annoying him, because he was trying to protect the house, trying to protect the horses … it’s a pretty helpless feeling.
“He doesn’t know how they lived.”
Cavanough said it was fortunate that they had only lost fences and 125-acres of winter feed.
But the trainer now expects his daily feed bill to jump from $200 a day to $400.
He said he had intended to take more mares and foals out to farm on Friday but did not because of the weather and a “touch of laziness”.
“Laziness! F … ing smartness now,” he said.
It has been a tough time for the Albury trainer who has not had a runner in three weeks after a virus hit his stables.