Every horseman’s worst nightmare became a gut-wrenching reality for Eric and Kay Reed early Sunday morning when they received a call that one of the barns at their Mercury Equine Center in Lexington, KY, was on fire.

Workers living on the property first spotted flames engulfing the barn containing 36 thoroughbreds around 1am and immediate sprang into action. They were able to free 13 horses before conditions became too severe to continue the effort. The 23 horses killed in the blaze were mostly yearlings, according to Eric Reed, a veteran racehorse trainer who owns and operates the facility with his wife Kay.

Strong storms passing through the area Saturday night and into Sunday morning brought a blitz of strong winds, freezing rain and lightning, which the Reeds believe could have ignited the fire.

“I keep trying to wake myself up,” Reed told Bloodhorse. “I’ll close my eyes and pretend I’m going to wake up and it was all a nightmare. But it’s not going to be.”

The barn, which was one of three on the property, also contained Reed’s office, tack and supplies.

The horses that perished in the fire were owned by 15 various clients and not insured, according to Reed.

Friends have set up a GoFundMe to assist in resupplying essentials like tack and feed, all of which was claimed