More than £1,300 has been raised for a riding school that accommodates disabled children and adults after a "heart-breaking" muck fire saw £15,000 worth of hay go up in flames.

The blaze at The Old Tiger Stables in Soham started in the afternoon on May 30 after a nearby fire spread to hay bales which had only been bought a week earlier. 

Owner Lorraine Webster, who has lived in the town since she was two-years-old, saw the wind going in the direction to the stack when she started driving towards it from her yard at 4pm. 

"The direction of the wind carried some of the embers, which went to the muck heap, then the hay started smouldering and caught fire," she said, adding that a Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue crew was quick to the scene.

While she and some of her staff "tried our hardest to take some of the bales away so it didn't take the whole stack", the chief fire officer advised them not to go round there due to the smoke.

Ely Standard: The blaze at The Old Tiger Stables in Soham destroyed £15,000 worth of hay.The blaze at The Old Tiger Stables in Soham destroyed £15,000 worth of hay. (Image: GoFundMe)

Lorraine didn't return to her house until 11.30pm that night. "It went on and on," she added. 

"It was one of those things that couldn't have been avoided.

"Just incredibly bad luck, but you've got to pick yourself back up," said Lorraine, having moved from her previous yard, in Northfield Road - where she had been for 35 years - to her new site at North Angle Farm last December following "a lot of hard work in the summer". 

While the financial impact of the fire was a "massive blow", there was one saving grace: "Nobody was hurt - human or animal."

One of Lorraine's friends, livery owner Mandy Seymore, has since set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the stables. It has already raised £1,390 towards a £2,000 target - and in just seven days. 

While at first Lorraine was reluctant to the idea, she says the outpouring of support has been "amazing to see". 

"I just thought, there's a lot of people worse off than me and it's just one of those awful things," she said.

Ely Standard: Lorraine Webster, owner of The Old Tiger Stables in Soham Lorraine Webster, owner of The Old Tiger Stables in Soham (Image: Lorraine Webster)

Writing on the GoFundMe page, Mandy described the riding stables as "an integral part of the community for adults, children and riding for the disabled", adding that "it will take substantial funds to replace the hay, which for a lot of stables is in very short supply.

"Money is tight for a lot of places, but this is a devastating loss for this school.

"We would hate to see anything happen to this riding school - the owner Lorraine works so hard and has had a lot of set backs recently.

"So, myself and some friends thought about how to try and raise some money to replace the hay that was destroyed.

"It would be amazing to get some support from people whose children love to ride, disabled people who look forward to their weekly ride and adults who have decided it's never too late to learn something new.

"And also from my horsey friends who know a sudden situation like this can be soul-destroying when money is tight and can well mean the end of their livelihood."

Providing her insurance covers the costs incurred by the blaze, Lorraine plans to "put the money towards something for our disabled and special needs riders".

Ely Standard: The aftermath of the blaze The aftermath of the blaze (Image: Lorraine Webster)

"Whatever way, it'll go back into the stables," she said, adding that she has always wanted to give back to Soham.

"I'm so passionate about trying to expand and do more for the local area," she said, adding that a recent Soham Town Council meeting has inspired her to think about offering equine therapy for people who have dementia. 

"I want to create one of the best equestrian centres, but for it to also be a place for people with disabilities or dementia to just come and have a visit - free of charge.

"It gives them something to do and look forward to," she added.

The Old Tiger team currently comprises 14 members of staff including instructors, part time and full time staff and apprentices. 

With 60 horses and 540 regular riders of all ages and abilities, Lorraine hopes to employ more people in the future.

She would also like to open a cafe and indoor arena at the site and is keen to get a ramp installed to improve accessibility for wheelchair users.

Lorraine added that as well as stables like Old Tiger being "a dying breed" due to many others across the country closing due to a lack of funds, they are also helpful for people suffering with their mental health. 

"Since the Covid pandemic, children and teenagers who haven't even been going to school have been coming to us with huge anxiety issues.

"It's really opened my eyes, so I think surely there must be extra things we can do to help." 

With the stables being located far away from passing traffic, she added: "People can spend a few hours here and leave feeling like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders.

"It's a lot more in depth than just people riding a horse."

The Old Tiger Stables is located at 22 Northfield Road, Ely, CB7 5UF.

You can donate to the fundraiser via