Awakened before dawn, Peggy Knaus jumped from bed and ran across pasture through dark and cold.
But any hope she had died as she got closer to the burning barn.
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“I knew,” she said, “the horses were gone.”
They were. Seven American paints and one quarter horse, all of show caliber and owned by customers, died in the early morning fire Friday at Knaus Show Horses, a farm outside Cleveland, Mo., in rural Cass County.
“Some of them I had raised from babies,” a tearful Knaus said.
The Missouri State Fire Marshal’s office ruled the cause to be undetermined due to the extent of damage, which was a total loss, according to spokesman Mike O’Connell.
Knaus put the value of the horses at between $300,000 and $400,000. Nike, the champion stallion, was spared because he has his own barn.
“Nobody knew there was a fire until the roof collapsed,” said Knaus, who trained her first horse at 13 and had been at it 27 years since.
After gathering herself, she then had to make the calls to the horse owners in Minnesota, Illinois, Oklahoma and the Kansas City area.
She and the paints were soon to be headed for 2013 American Paint Horse Horse Association World Championship Show in Ft. Worth. That’s gone now, along with her business.
“We don’t even have a halter,” she said.
None of the equipment was insured. She told GoHorseShow.com that she would appreciate any donated equipment to help rebuild her business.
“We are devastated to say the least,” Knaus told the website. “The most important part to myself and my clients can’t be replaced. We love each one of the horses dearly.”