Four horses returned to trotting center two days after barn fire

9:37 p.m. Friday, March 18, 2016 | PalmBeachPost – Sam Stathis paused to compose himself as he stared at the charred remains of the stables where 12 horses were killed and 11 others injured in a fire early Wednesday.

“It reminds me of death,” Stathis said tearfully Friday evening at the South Florida Trotting Center in suburban Boynton Beach.

But Stathis, the owner of the facility, experienced a happier moment later in the evening when four of the injured horses were returned to the trotting center. One by one, Stathis removed the horses — Celebrity Artemis, Celebrity Lover, Celebrity Lambo and Celebrity Tsipra — gently petting each as they were moved to stables in another part of the trotting center.

“You’re home, Sweetie,” Stathis said as he greeted Celebrity Artemis, the first horse off the trailer.

Seven of the injured horses remained at the Reed & Associates Equine & Animal Hospital in Loxahatchee on Friday night. It was not clear when they would be released.

As the returning horses were removed from their trailer, some had visible burn injuries.

Each will need to be monitored over the next several weeks for upper respiratory and lung issues, and the horses may require hyperbaric oxygen treatments, Stathis said.

“They’re not in extreme danger, but (there’s) caution that they’re not out of the woods with the respiratory issues,” he said. “They need 24 hour a day vet care. We thought it better that they live on the farm and we hand walk them so they don’t get psychological issues. They’ve been through enough.”

Stathis said his goal is to see that the horses — along with those still in the equine hospital — are able to race again.

Of the horses remaining at the hospital, the two who are in the most critical condition have shown slight improvement, Stathis said. Two horses had their conditions downgraded. There was concern that two of the horses would have to be euthanized, Stathis. But Stathis said he will do everything he can to try to save them.

“I’m going to make sure all 11 make it,” he said. “I pray that we race all 11 again. What’s most important to me is not where they finish, but that they race because it’s not about where we end up. It’s the fact that we race out of the ashes. “

Stathis said staff at the trotting center were awaiting clearance from investigators and insurance adjusters before they begin cleanup efforts in the destroyed stables.

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