UPDATE: 35 horses perish in devastating fire at Happy Valley Farm

UPDATE: 35 horses perish in devastating fire at Happy Valley Farm

June 21st, 2013 by Staff Report in Local Regional News

Happy Valley Farms fire Photo by WRCB's Tuck Watts

Happy Valley Farms fire Photo by WRCB's Tuck Watts

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

Champion Merchant Prince, one of the horses killed in the fire. Avis photo courtesy of Saddle Horse Report.

Champion Merchant Prince, one of the horses killed...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Happy 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.