Fengur and Score were former show horses from Iceland. They loved the cold, their caretaker said. When it snowed, they rolled around in it like dogs, bucking and rearing and snorting.

Fen was more reserved. He was older, 19, black and a former champion stallion.

Score, 15 and chestnut, was mischievous, running off for miles if you let him.

Finally, their favorite season was here. Sunday was the second day of the winter schedule, so Fen and Score started the night in their Bucks County stable instead of wandering around outside.

At 3:30 a.m. Monday, the stable, 15 feet by 50 feet, caught fire. Built in the 1930s and made of pine, it burned down within an hour. Fen and Score and eight Polish Tolbunt chickens that were housed with them, three of them chicks, perished.

"I'm the one who put them in last night," Kip McNeill, 34, one of the horses' caretakers, said Monday afternoon.

After he covered their bodies with a gray tarp, McNeill said: "I'm never going to be able to get over it."

The fire remains under investigation, Solebury Detective Cpl. Jon Koretzky said. McNeill said it may have been an electrical problem. When crews arrived, the stable was fully engulfed, and no one could get the animals out in time.

"It was just bad luck, bad timing," McNeill said.

Icelandic horses are small, almost pony-size, with thick winter coats. They're known for having long lives, big personalities, and a smooth but fast gait, known as a tolt.

Such horses spend their summer days inside, away from the sun, and the nights cooling off outside. In the fall and winter, they go inside at night.

Fen and Score were basically retirees, arriving in the United States from Iceland in 2006 after careers as show horses.

They lived with another American owner before finding their way to a 30-acre property on Saw Mill Road outside New Hope about two years ago. The property owners left McNeill, who lives on the land, to tend to the horses.

"Most horses tend to be big, tall idiots," McNeill said. "But if you looked into these horses' eyes, there was something there."

Like little brothers, Fen and Score would go through McNeill's pockets for candy canes. They would dart toward him at the crinkling of a plastic wrapper. They were always together, "best buds," McNeill said.

Sometimes, friends of McNeill's would stop by for a ride on Fen or Score. Most often, the little horses spent their winter days and summer nights grazing and wandering around the grassy fields. They had the good life.

They were there, at this place in Solebury, "because we loved them," McNeill said. "They were just part of the family."

bfinley@phillynews.com

610-313-8118@Ben_Finley