Equestrians rally to help fire-hit rider

Tegan Fitzsimon and Anna Thomas with horses at the Fitzsimon barn on Sunday, two days before the fire.
Tegan Fitzsimon and Anna Thomas with horses at the Fitzsimon barn on Sunday, two days before the fire. © Facebook

Equestrians from across New Zealand are rallying to help Canterbury showjumper Tegan Fitzsimon, whose family lost their stable block and sheds to a fire following gale-force storms in the region this week.

The fire on Sandy Knolls Road in West Melton started after a spark from power lines caused a hedge to catch fire. It continued from the hedge right through Phil Fitzsimon’s workshop, then to the tack shed, stables, feed shed and storage shed housing Tegan’s new jump stands and rails.

Fortunately, the horses had been moved out of the stable block after fears the barn’s roof might blow off in the wind.

Tegan was able to get a few of her favourite saddles, bridles and helmets out but everything else has gone.

The 22-year-old lost all her ribbons and medals, including one from the 2009 Youth Olympic Games. Her groom, Anna Thomas, who keeps her horses on the property, also lost her gear in the fire.

The fire burned for about five hours on Tuesday night.

Tegan Fitzsimon.
Tegan Fitzsimon. © Facebook

Phil Fitzsimon’s workshop was also lost in the blaze.

Services are gradually being returned to the province.

Two of Tegan’s fellow young riders have kicked off an effort to help out. Jess Sonne and Steffi Whitaker have set up a Facebook page to collate the support efforts, and at the time of writing already had 1600 supporters. Jess Sonne is also working without electricity.

Already donations of feed and gear are coming in, with a bank account being set up today. Gear is also being loaned to the riders.

The winner of a competition on Horsetalk.co.nz to win back entry fees for the upcoming 2013 Canterbury A&P Show has donated her prize to Tegan.

Nelson based Kelsea O’Connor, 16,  has given her prize in the ‘win back your entry fees’ contest, to Tegan, who stays at the O’Connor property when she is in the region for riding clinics.

“Kelsea’s generosity in gifting her prize of complimentary entry fees for the 2013 Canterbury A&P Show to a fellow equestrian enthusiast is heart-warming,” said Canterbury A&P Show Marketing Manager Nicola Cull.

“The show has been around for 150 years and without the continued support of our members and exhibitors who participate year after year, generation after generation, the Canterbury A&P Show would not have grown into what is it today. Well done Kelsea and all the best of luck to Tegan at this year’s show,” Cull said.

Tegan said that she was “absolutely gobsmacked” by the support. “You are all amazing. Thank you to everyone who has donated something, anything is appreciated no matter how big or small.”

Among the support is a trucking firm bringing donations of gear from Ashburton, and a Canterbury stud farm has offered a stallion service for auction, with all proceeds going directly to Tegan.

Tegan’s aunt Pamela Courtney (Phil Fitzsimon’s sister) said she was touched that so many people had reached out to help her brother and his wife, Christine – who is nursing a broken leg – and Tegan. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart, your kindness has brought me to tears. The good old Kiwi spirit lives on! Sincere thanks.”


For updates, see the Facebook page Let’s help Tegan out.

Gear and feed can be dropped off at Steffi Whittaker’s property, at 306 Wigram Rd (0274 131 020); at JW Sport on 123 Blenheim Road; or with Jess Sonne, at 301 Springston Rolleston Road. Items can also be dropped off at the Eventing Canterbury event on Sunday at McLeans Island.

Contact Jess Sonne on 0278255049 or sonne.nj@xtra.co.nz for further information.



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