35 horses perish in devastating fire at Happy Valley Farm

Unknown






timesfreepress.com, Staff writer, Friday, June 21, 2013

imagesHappy Valley Farm, home to an expansive American Saddlebred show horse breeding and training operation in rural North Georgia, lost 35 of 36 horses stabled in the main barn when fire broke out Thursday evening.

The structure was completely engulfed within 20 minutes, according to Daniel Jenner, one of the farm’s trainers.

“We were able to get one horse out of an end stall on the back side of the barn adjacent to the indoor arena,” he said in a news release. “It was too hot and smoky to get anywhere near the main barn aisle.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by authorities, but foul play is not suspected, according to the news release.

Walker County Fire Chief Randy Camp said today loss estimates are about $4.1 million – about $3 million for the horses, and $1.1 million for the structures.

The colt barn and broodmare barn were not affected by the blaze.

Marion “Bit” Hutcheson,” the owner of Happy Valley Farm, “is widely respected in the Saddlebred horse industry,” said Bob Funkhouser, editor of a weekly breed publication.

“Happy Valley Farm is one of the most widely regarded in the country,” he said Friday. “Bit dedicated her life to breeding and raising world-class Saddlebreds. The industry has benefited from her passion and commitment, and we all share in her loss.”

Four stallions that were the backbone of the Happy Valley Farm’s successful breeding operation died in the fire.

Included were the home-bred stallion, WC Merchant Prince, who won the Three-Year-Old Fine Harness National Futurity in 1986 and was sire of many great world’s champions, including World’s Grand Champion Fine Harness and World’s Grand Champion Three-Gaited CH A Sweet Treat, CH Marching Orders, and CH Rejoice, among many others.

Also perishing were RWC I’m The Prince, sire of twice World’s Grand Champion Three-Gaited CH Grande Gil, WC Harlem’s Friendly Conversation, sire of World’s Champions Kalarama’s Delightful and With A Friend, and finally a stallion, son of I’m The Prince, Magical Me.

Show horses that perished included WC With A Friend, RWC So Persuasive, I Insist, as well as a number of promising prospects, including two full brothers to WC Grande Gill, I’m Grande and Grande Prince; a Junior prospect by Harlem’s Friendly Conversation, I’ll Just Say, who was being readied for competition at the Kentucky State Fair World’s Championship; Such Magic, daughter of Such Sweet Memories and Little Soul, daughter of In My Soul.

Nearly 25 foals have been born in 2013 and they, together with almost 100 prospects and broodmares, will be the future of Happy Valley, according to the news release.

Read more in tomorrow’s Times Free Press.




AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
18 Comments
  • Arlene

    Not a feel good Sunday I had hoped for !!!!!OMG !!! How Terrible !!!! So much of this is happening of late , or are we just hearing it more ??????I am devastated for the owners and the Poor Horses !!!!!! All walks of life are so very precious especially the Horses, I will cry for all of them……………………. We must save are Mustangs they are our only Living Legends , we must give them what is theirs and always has been theirs THE LAND !!! 25 million acres plus, belongs to them and only them, the Greed Must Stop here and Stop Now !!!!!!

    June 23, 2013
  • MorganG

    I cannot imagine the anguish of watching your barn full of horses engulfed in flames. Knowing how your beloved horses are suffering and unable to do anything. Surely Bit will be traumatized for quite a while over this memory. I’m so sorry.

    June 23, 2013
  • Lana Marie

    One of my biggest fears ‘FIRE’! For home & especially my horses. Can’t imagine the pain & sorrow these folks are going thru & what those horses experienced?? Very sorry for your loss.
    Now I don’t know the details of this barn, etc. But – It shows that no matter how much $$$ would have been spent on facilities etc. that a fire could destroy a barn & horses in it. My thinking is if you have that kind of money, is it possible to have the best ‘sprinkler’ system for this exact reason?

    June 23, 2013
  • Judith Keene

    Oh, How sad! I am heartbroken for the owners of these beautiful horses. It must be a devastating thing to have to endure. May you find solace in the young horses that will continue on in the memory of those that perished!

    June 23, 2013
  • Daryl

    Oh it is so hard to lose one horse , but to have 35 horses not make it, I am so sorry for your lose, your heart must be broken.

    June 23, 2013
  • yvon

    I don’t understand why so many barns full of horses burn up. Why is it not mandatory to have water sprinklers and smoke alarms installed in all occupied barns. What causes so many of barn fires? It is just so hard to imagine what these animals suffer.

    June 23, 2013
  • Debbie Tracy

    I am so very sorry for this just awful for your loss!! I honestly can’t even fathom such tragedy all at once and to have it be fire, oh my gosh just horribly sad….

    June 23, 2013
  • Linda Parker-Fedak

    This is so tragic! This should never have happened. I can’t imagine a barn being so flammable as to burn that quickly. Should not have ANY flammable materials and automatic sprinklers if none installed. Fire resistant materials to build barns, or metal. Check wiring on a regular basis. People, think ahead when housing your horses and this won’t happen again!!! Costs too high? Look at what this loss has cost!!!

    June 23, 2013
  • sherriey

    FIRE! my biggest fear. i am so so very sorry for the horses and those that loved them. God bless…my prayers go out to them.
    so so sad. unbearable.

    June 23, 2013
  • Jade

    This is not the time for judgements, just loving support. We ALL are diminished by the loss of life. Blessed Be.

    June 23, 2013
  • Steph

    I am sorry very sorry for your loss. You are in our hearts and prayers. God Bless you and the precious souls of the horses that suffered in the fire.

    June 24, 2013
  • Linda Huffman

    I was a property-casualty insurance agent in Kentucky, and focused mainly on insuring farms, and show stables. Barns are very difficult to insure, because they are full of high risk materials (hay, straw, shavings, etc.) ALL the barns at Happy Valley Farm were insured, that’s how well maintained they are. I was an owner/rider of the same breed of horses that perished, and in fact, and am very good friends with Bit and Danny, the owner and trainer at “The Valley”. Let me assure you that if sprinkler systems worked to prevent barn fires, EVERY insurance company would demand they be installed before insuring a property. Does your house have one? Even mine doesn’t. The fact of the matter is, that by the time a fire reaches the height and heat necessary to enable the sprinklers, the barn is gone. The ceilings are so high in large barns, there really isn’t anyway sprinklers can be hung to provide a defense. The cause of this fire has not been determined, and regardless of how it happened, I can assure you that this is THE finest equine establishment you could possibly imagine, so enough of blaming the victims. Thank you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuaTXgXMUL4

    June 24, 2013
    • MorganG

      I agree with not blaming the victims. They are surely in a state of shock. Someone should look into a promote widely a manner in which to install a sprinkler system that was connected to a smoke detector instead of operating via response to heat. A bank of smoke detectors could then be installed high and low and in all parts of the barn. I’m certain some enterprising inventor could do that, it has to be fairly easy. Unfortunately what it takes to keep a horse fed and in comfort is also what causes a fire to rage in seconds. I know how pretty wood looks but I think if I had a LOT of money to build a barn I would be looking at a whole lot of fireproof material instead of wood.

      June 27, 2013
  • Kristy

    Omg! Such a horrible tragedy! My thoughts & prayers go out 2 Bit, her family & 2 all the owners of those horses lost in the fire. Thankfully they have survivors who will carry on the name of Happy Valley Standardbreds. May God be with you & guide & help you get thru this terrible loss.

    June 24, 2013
  • Lorrie Roehm

    My Son and his fellow firemen saved 40+ horses from a barn fire! The barn did have a sprinkler system, over each stall and down the aisle way and a fire alarm that alerted the nearby fire department immediately. It can be done…no hay, shavings were stored within the barn. Each stall had a halter and lead but the horses were in a panic they could not be haltered. So each stall was opened and horses ran out and stall door was closed. I have no idea of this structure or if this barn had a sprinkler system. The cause of the fire was determined to be electrical and too many cobwebs! Cobwebs burn and the hot ash lands on the shavings and starts the fires. That is why it so important to clean the cobwebs, check electrical and have a sprinkler system over each stall. Smoke kills before the fire. It so sad these beautiful horses were killed, my favorite breed.

    June 27, 2013
    • Lana Marie

      Thanks Lorrie for THAT wonderful story, yeah for those firemen!!! I am confused, was there a sprinkler system & did the sprinkler system work or not? An alarm, great idea!!!
      Agree, cobwebs MUST be removed as well NO hay/shavings stored in the barn. Unfortunately so many ‘barn fire’ tragedies happen, sorry for all their losses. :(

      June 27, 2013
  • Sheldon

    A top-notch operation like that with NO SPRINKLERS?!?!?! WTF?1 Any structure housing animals should have this. Contact the lawmakers to get this done!

    July 4, 2013
    • Lana Marie

      AGREED Sheldon….that was my point – with that kind of money you are damn sure if they were mine ‘FIRE’ prevention would have been at the TOP of the list & the best would have been installed sprinklers (alarms, bells, whistles) etc. Horrific end to those horses lives…I’m sure their owners have been going through an unbearable time.

      July 4, 2013