When Cain and Roberta Quam surveyed the aftermath of the July 27 fire that destroyed their entire horse-training facility, the Kendal, Saskatchewan couple thought that life as they had known it for the last 11 years was officially over.
“Initially I thought, ‘I’m done, I can’t do this again,’” said Cain, one of Canada’s top horse trainers and cutting horse competitors. “We had a really successful business, but it took so much work to build it up and operate it, that I had often thought that if I had to do it all over again, I never would.”
Seeing their life’s work, which included a 10,800-square-foot riding arena and a 2,700-square-foot heated barn, burn to the ground along with a lifetime of tack and tools was more than they thought they could bear. But then support from the family’s hometown communities of Kendal and Montmartre started to flood in, and members of Canada’s horse community rallied behind the Quams.
“The community just rose up around us and gave us so much support and encouragement, that we started to think that maybe we could rebuild,” said Cain, referring to a fundraiser held on Aug. 22 in Montmartre and gifts like brand new saddles which were given to the family. “One fella I used to work with sent up a saddle that was almost brand new and said, ‘Keep it — it’s yours.’ I told him I couldn’t take it, because a good saddle is worth $4,000 to $5,000, but he just kept saying, ‘It’s yours.’”
Roberta said every act of generosity, from a simple card to the donation of tack, has meant the world to her and Cain and their two girls, 10-year-old Cheyenne and eight-year-old Jay-Lynne.
“I would come home from somewhere and there’d be a watermelon in my porch, or someone would have dropped off a meal,” said Roberta, who works alongside her husband at Cain Quam Performance Horses. “One girl at Cow Town (a Regina horse supplier) heard about the fire and sent a rope out one day with a customer and it turned out that Cain used that rope just two days later. Without it, he would have had nothing — everything was gone.”
While the couple’s insurance payout for the $400,000 arena, barn and tool shed will not be enough to cover the cost of rebuilding, the Quams say they have made a commitment to rebuild, thanks to the generosity of their friends, neighbours and cowboy colleagues.
“The support we’ve received, whether it’s money, tack or just a word of support, has been the difference — it really has,” said Cain. “Experiencing a community stand up behind you is humbling and uplifting and what has gone on in the last month has given us the emotional lift that will enable us to go on.”
The $26,000 raised at the Aug. 22 silent auction, attended by over 400 people, will be used for day-to-day living while the family rebuilds its facility.
“Initially we were kind of uncomfortable getting a helping hand like that, but we came to terms that we weren’t going to survive without it,” said Cain, adding that he hopes to have his arena and barn rebuilt by the new year. “In order to rebuild, we’re going to have to do 70 per cent of the building ourselves so that we save on labour costs.”
The Quams have managed to stay in business this summer, continuing to ride just eight of the 23 horses that they had in training at the time of the fire.
“My first thought when I drove in the yard and saw the building on fire was my wife and kids, and next it was the horses,” said Cain. “That fire had the potential to take out 17 horses right there and for all but three weeks of the year, those horses would have been in that barn.”
While Cain and Roberta also lost $25,000 of tools and $65,000 of custom-made tack, Cain says he’s just thankful that no lives were lost in the blaze.
“Most of my tack was custom made, and a lot of it was bought when I was younger and single, so it was pretty expensive, fancy stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily purchase with the responsibilities that come with age,” said Cain. “But to be honest, while it’s a big loss, it’s just stuff. I felt worse about my hired man’s new saddle because he’s a young fella and he had just bought his first custom-made saddle.”
Cain says his perspective on life has changed dramatically since the fire.
“It’s life changing in terms of how thankful we are for all we have and all we haven’t lost,” said Cain. “From the bottom of our hearts we want to thank anybody who has helped us in any way they have, from words of encouragement to offering help. It’s really been the difference and it’s what’s kept us going. It’s changed us, and it’s changed our business… and I think it’s all for the good.”
To donate to the Quam family, contact Renate Selinger at (306) 424-2391.
Christalee Froese writes from Montmartre, Saskatchewan