Horses saved from burning barn at Old Friends

Breeders' Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup was rescued over the weekend from a burning barn at Old Friends. Photo by and courtesy Maureen McKenzie

Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup was rescued over the weekend from a burning barn at Old Friends. Photo by and courtesy Maureen McKenzie

Mere minutes before a fast-moving structure fire fully engulfed a barn at Old Friends Farm in Kentucky this weekend, two horses— a Breeders Cup Classic winner and a 27-year-old rescue horse—were led to safety by workers who rushed in as the 7-stall building went up in flames.

Michael Blowen, founder of the world-renowned retirement farm for Thoroughbreds, says the quick-thinking of staffer James Krump and his wife Tammy saved Alphabet Soup, a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, and Archie’s Echo, an elder chestnut rescued from the slaughter pipeline. (Please see earlier story about Archie’s Echo).

Both horses were led calmly to safety as the roof above them went up in flames in mere seconds, says Blowen, who notes that both horses were calm and entirely unharmed in the incident.

Eclipse Award winning photographer Barbara Livingston captured the scene of the aftermath. © Photo used with permission of Barbara Livingston.

Eclipse Award winning photographer Barbara Livingston captured the scene of the aftermath. © Barbara Livingston.

“They didn’t have a scratch on them,” Blowen says. “In fact, we put Alphabet Soup in a round pen near the barn, and he went right in and calmly munched his hay. The only one horse who was freaked out by the fire was (Old Friends mascot) Little Silver Charm. And I think he was more upset by the emergency vehicles and sirens than anything.”

Fire crews arrived on the scene early Saturday morning, shortly after Blowen was alerted to the blaze by screaming. “Tammy came running to my house screaming, ‘The barn’s on fire! The barn’s on fire!’ By the time I got down there a couple minutes later, she and her husband had gotten Archie’s Echo and Alphabet Soup out of the barn. And within about 10 minutes, the entire thing was completely engulfed.”

Blowen adds that he was incredibly grateful for the heroic effort of the husband/wife team. “James was devastated, and crying all day. He kept thinking that maybe he did something, that maybe he forgot to shut something off. I had to keep telling him that everything was turned off; it wasn’t his fault.”

Archie's Echo, 27, was led from a burning barn at Old Friends over the weekend, minutes before the structure was fully engulfed in flames. It was his second recent brush with death. He was rescued from the slaughter pipeline in June.

Archie’s Echo, 27, was led from a burning barn at Old Friends over the weekend, minutes before the structure was fully engulfed in flames. It was his second recent brush with death. He was rescued from the slaughter pipeline in June.

Although a cause of the fire has yet to be announced, Blowen says fire crews suspect that wiring that had been “nibbled on” by rodents may have touched off the blaze.

As Blowen awaits word on an official cause, he is moving full steam ahead to raise funds to build a state-of-the-art barn to replace the modest, 7-stall structure, which had served as a medical barn, he says.

Several racing syndicates have stepped up to offer funds, as well as individual horse owners and breeders. And area farms have made stalls available to any Old Friends horses requiring shelter, says Blowen, noting, “We’ve gotten calls from all over … from people in the racing world pulling together wanting to help the animals.” (Those interested in donating to the effort to rebuild may do so here: http://www.oldfriendsequine.org/how-to-help.html).

The ruined structure had been retrofitted to accommodate the needs of sick horses, though the two horses rescued were not sick at all. Alphabet Soup simply prefers to come in at night, as does Archie’s Echo, who is older and suffered greatly before he was rescued in June.

Archie was discovered by Parx Racing Vice President Sam Elliot at the New Holland kill pen in June. He and Danielle Montgomery of Turning for Home, paid to remove him, and had him shipped to a rehab farm. After which Blowen, who remembered the old horse from his long-ago racing days at the now defunct Rockingham Race Track in N.H., offered him a home.

Now that Archie and Alphabet are safe, and the flames have been tamped down, Blowen is philosophical. “It’ll end up being a good thing for us to build a new barn. And nothing would have been more devastating to us than if those horses had been injured.”

7 responses to “Horses saved from burning barn at Old Friends”

  1. April Inloes Smith

    A couple of barn cats would have kept the rodents from chewing the wiring

    1. barbaradl

      They do have several barn cats at Old Friends.

  2. Lil Lowe

    Thank God no horses were injured, thanks to the great couple for their fast response in getting the horses out safely!! God Bless Michael Blowen, I want to share in the help for rebuilding a barn, I love OLD FRIENDS and the great work, Michael does!! I hope sweet little Silver Charm is ok & settled down!

  3. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    Glad everyone and horse got out safely.

  4. kimwfindlay

    Were these the only horses in the barn?

  5. Kathy

    God bless James and Tammy Crump — and thank God for their quick thinking and actions.

    More thanks that they and Archie and Alphabet Soup were all uninjured in the blaze. A barn can be rebuilt — lost lives, whether animal or equine, are far more devastating.

  6. Fran

    Thanking God everyone is ok. Glad to hear folks are stepping up to help build a new QT barn. Well deserved organization!!
    Thanks for the great article Sue!

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