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Tragedy in MN
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Last activity 2008-12-28 1:13 PM
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rodeo dc
Posted 2008-12-24 10:38 AM (#30310)
Subject: Tragedy in MN





Posts: 2473

You have all probably have already heard about this fire, I got this today from a friend in MN.

The American Quarter Horse Journal, December 23, 2008 – On December 21, a barn fire in Verndale, Minnesota, claimed 41 American Quarter Horses and one foal.

Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr told The American Quarter Horse Journal that the Verndale Fire Department was dispatched about 6 a.m. to the fire at R&J Horse Sales. Five fire departments fought the blaze, which


A fire at R&J Sales in Verndale, Minnesota, claimed the lives of 41 American Quarter Horses and a foal.

was not put out until after 1 p.m., in subzero temperatures. The sales and tack area, the kitchen, office and one section of the main barn were damaged. Carr estimated that with the wind chill, the temperature was 35 degrees below zero.

“It was a very cold morning,” Carr said. “There were high winds from the east, so the fire went through that barn like an inferno. A lot of credit goes to the fire department personnel for getting that fire out as well as they did; otherwise, they might have lost a lot of other buildings out there.”

The horses were in Verndale for an AQHA team penning/ranch sorting event, according to Scot Stelter of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, president of the Sheyenne Valley Team Penning Association, who lost six horses in the blaze.

“We were getting ready to leave our room at 6:30 in the morning when we got the phone call,” Stelter said. “We were told the barn was already burning and the horses were already dead.”

After the fire was out, Stelter and a veterinarian went into the barn to count the dead.

“The firemen told me time and time again they were all gone, but I had to go in and make sure they were,” he said. “We did that for the insurance companies and death certificates and autopsy reports. Right now, they’re still all laying in the building.”

Stelter’s concern is for an appropriate way of remembering the horses and burying them. His daughter, Jessica, who hoped to qualify for the 2009 Ford AQHYA World Championship Show, was among the owners who thought of the horses as partners.

In addition to the horses, many of the owners lost all their tack in the fire, said Kerri Longtine of Christine, North Dakota, whose husband, Matt, is a director of the U.S. Team Penning Association. Six of Kerri’s horses also died in the fire.

“There were many horses (that died) that were world champions,” Stelter said, “and I’m going to guess probably 75 percent of these horses were just at the World Show,” including his own Bam Bam Merada, who just placed sixth in open team penning at the 2008 AQHA World Championship Show.


The office area, indicated by the mound of snow, was demolished in the blaze.

Stelter said the bonds of community will help the team penners get through the loss.

“It’s a tight-knit family of people,” he said. “We all had dinner together the evening before. We travel around the country together. If everybody wasn’t so close and supportive, it would be terrible.”

Foul play is not suspected in the fire, which was still smoldering December 23 and it is being investigated by the Wadena County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office. R&J Sales, which is owned by the Sundby family, has been in business in Verndale for 25 years and is a respected part of the community, Carr said. Ryan Sundby is one of the top Featherlite salesmen in the state of Minnesota, and many of the small businesses in Verndale depend on the horse community traffic.

Most of the owners have returned to their homes and are discussing ways to remember their horses.

“Everybody that morning took their empty trailers and drove home,” Stelter said. “I know everybody would appreciate it if their horses were remembered in some sense.”
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