A pre-dawn fire Monday took the lives of approximately 30 Spotted Saddle Horses.
The blaze at Dickie Gardner Stables, Whitaker Road, was discovered after 3 a.m., officials said.
"Some neighbors saw it and called us," Gardner said. "We (Gardner and his wife, Misti) got here and tried to get in but the firefighters wouldn't let us inside. They said it was already too far gone."
The cause of the fire is undetermined, Gardner and Sheriff Randall Boyce said.
The metal building, which also housed Gardner's offices, was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived. The first 911 call was received at 3:27 a.m.
"There were about 30 horses inside," Gardner said, including several championship horses. Gardner didn't want to name specific horses before customers were notified.
State agricultural and arson investigators were expected to inspect the stables' remains, Boyce said.
"We don't necessarily suspect arson but on a case of this magnitude they always come in and check everything out," Boyce said.
Horses trained by Gardner include I'm Benny Too, the 2006 and 2007 Trail Pleasure World Grand Champion in the Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders & Exhibitors Association's show in Shelbyville, and Chasper's Buster, which finished third in the Open Shod Canter World Grand Championship class, according to SSHBEA's web site.
Pusher's Pride, which competed in the 14.2 and Under Trail Pleasure division, and Calvin's Crown Royal, in the amateur division, were mentioned by Gardner in a September 2007 Times-Gazette article.
A Spot At The Ritz, the 2007 SSHBEA Spring Show's Senior Model Stallion Champion, was also trained by Gardner.
Gardner, 2007 president of the Professional Spotted Saddle Horse Trainers' Association, told the Times-Gazette in September he had 32 horses in training.
-- From the Shelbyville Times-Gazette