35 Show Horses Perish As Stables Burn At Happy Valley Farm; Loss As High As $4 Million; Names Given For Valuable Lost Horses

Friday, June 21, 2013
View of fire from Highway 2A
View of fire from Highway 2A
- photo by Alicia Crumley

Thirty-five show horses perished when a raging fire broke out at Happy Valley Farm at Flintstone, Ga., on Thursday evening.

The fire started in one large barn shortly before dark, then spread to another. 

Randy Camp, Walker County fire chief, said, "We were told that some of the horses had raced in the Kentucky Derby. The owner, Marion "Bit" Hutcheson, was at the scene most of the night. As you can imagine, she was very distraught - knowing the horses by name."

He said the preliminary estimate of the loss ranges between $3 million and $4 million. He said, "We don't know all the values of the horses." 

The fire sent flames high into the air. There was also a huge plume of smoke visible from Lookout Mountain and many other areas.

Chief Camp said the call came in around 8:40 p.m. He said a fire station is nearby and firefighters were on the scene within eight minutes. But he said the large barn where the horses were kept was already burning out of control.

He said the fire was spreading to a nearby barn connected by a hallway. The horses were trained in that area.

Chief Camp said there is a hydrant nearby, and firefighters poured 2,000 gallons to try to save the second barn, "but that didn't put a dent in it."

He said the firefighters retreated when a portion of the roof of the second barn collapsed.

Chief Camp said no one was on the property at the time. "They had put the horses in their stalls and gone home," he said.

He said the material in the barns was highly combustible, including wood, hay and shavings. Plus, the blaze was fed by fans kept in the stalls to cool down the horses.  

The fire chief said the cause of the blaze is not yet known. He said Walker County investigators are probing the cause, and the State Fire Marshal's Office is helping due to the size of the loss.

The only survivor from the barn was a horse named "Merchant Heir" who rushed out of the burning building.

There were over 20 colts in a nearby pasture who also survived.

Some trainers who were called back to the scene tried to go in and save some of the valuable horses, but were beaten back by the flames and heavy smoke. 

Officials said Happy Valley Farm is home to an expansive American Saddlebred show horse breeding and training operation.

Daniel Jenner, one of the farm’s horse trainers, stated that the structure was completely engulfed within 20 minutes.  “We were able to get one horse out of an end stall on the back side of the barn adjacent to the indoor arena.  It was too hot and smoky to get anywhere near the main barn aisle.”


Lost in the blaze were four stallions that were the backbone of the breeding operation.  Included were the prolific homebred 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.  The black stallion, 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.


The cause of the fire is still under investigation by authorities, but foul play is not suspected.  The colt barn and broodmare barn were not affected by the blaze.  Nearly 25 foals have been born in 2013 and they, together with almost 100 prospects and broodmares, will be the future of Happy Valley.


Ms. Hutcheson, owner, and the entire Happy Valley staff said they "would like to express their deepest appreciation for your condolences."

The Hutcheson family has long operated a farm at the site. 

View from Lookout Mountain
View from Lookout Mountain
- Photo2 by Bill Chapin

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: AARON, DARREL DEON 211 APPLING STREET CHATTANOOGA, 37406 35 Chattanooga LICENSE, EXPIRED DRIVER LICENSE DRIVING LEFT OF CENTER LINE FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY POSSESSION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE ATKINSON, JAMAAL NATHANIEL 737 TALLEY RD CHATTANOOGA, 37411 23 Chattanooga DOMESTIC ASSAULT ... (click for more)

Red Bank Citizens Urged To Attend Meeting On Flood Risk Maps

A public meeting will be held on Monday, April 13, from 4-7 p.m. with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the DRC building, 1250 Market St. “I can’t convey how important it is for the residents of Red Bank to go,” said City Manager Randall Smith. This will be an opportunity for residents and property owners to review the new preliminary flood risk maps, as well as ... (click for more)

Tennessee Deserves Better Health Reform - And Response

Tennessee needs health care reform. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," was not the best solution for Tennesseans. That is why the vast majority of Tennessee legislators never publicly supported the plan defeated in a special legislative session in February.   It is important to distinguish health care from health insurance. As one physician ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Happy Birthday, Mr. Berg

This past Monday we should have closed the Post Office, let kids out of school, and lowered our flags to half-mast. March 2 is the anniversary of Moe Berg’s birthday and the legendary Casey Stengel once said Moe was “the strangest man ever to play baseball.” Moe played major league baseball for 16 years, finishing with the Boston Red Sox in 1939 and a lifetime batting average of ... (click for more)

Double Overtime Thriller: Central Boys Going To State

For all the folks who came to Chattanooga State Tuesday night for the Class AA sectional battle between Livingston Academy and Region 3-AA champ Central, they got their money's worth and more. And they even got some free basketball to boot. Needing a couple of overtimes, the Purple Pounders will be heading to Murfreesboro and MTSU's Murphy Center next week for the TSSAA State ... (click for more)

Blackman Blazes A Trail To State By Bashing Bradley, 55-35

(Story will be updated) MUFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Class AAA state champions are still alive and well. Blackman raced past outmanned Bradley Central, 55-35, Tuesday night in a Class AAA sectional victory that blazed a path right to the boys state tournament at nearby Middle Tennessee State University starting on March 11. The Blaze (24-5) will be making their fourth ... (click for more)