By Kathy Smith

A massive barn fire just outside of Bennington, Nebraska has left one person and several horses dead. The fire, which began around 6:30am on February 3, 2022 destroyed the Heartland Farms facility owned by Canadian Karen Cudmore and her husband, Blair Cudmore.  

On February 3, nine horses were reported dead, and 10 were being treated for injuries at the Serenity Ridge farm next door. Sadly, as of February 7, all but three of the rescued horses had succumbed to their injuries and those three were moved to the Nebraska Equine Veterinary Clinic. 

The man who died, Nate Dietrich, 32, is believed to have been sleeping in a room at the site. In addition, a firefighter was treated in hospital for burns. 

Photo: Heartland Farms Facebook

Karen Cudmore, originally of Victoria, BC represented Canada on the world stage, competing at the 2003 Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic, at two FEI World Cup Finals, and at the 2002 FEI World Equestrian Games in Spain. The Holsteiner stallion Southern Pride, Cudmore’s mount at the 2010 FEI World Cup Final, and her current grand prix show jumper, Coneja, are among the 16 horses that died. The farm breeds, trains, and sells Holsteiner and Holsteiner-Thoroughbred crosses, and stood the Holsteiner stallion, Southern Pride. It was home to about 50 horses. 

The equestrian community has rallied around the Cudmore family as they grapple with the tragedy and decide what their next steps are. Two fundraisers have been set up to show support and assist the Cudmore family in rebuilding: 

Fundraiser by Audrey Wilson : Help the Cudmore’s rebuild their farm. ( 

Individual – Omaha Equestrian Foundation 

To read more by Kathy Smith on this site, click here.

Main Photo: Karen Cudmore with Southern Pride, one of the horses that perished in the fire. Credit: Shutterstock/Lincoln Rogers