My Day at Jersey Fresh

I had a very different post planned for this. I was so excited to tell you about how cool jump judging was, how thrilling it was to see these incredible athletes leap and gallop by, and the new friends I made through that unspoken camaraderie of people who volunteer to wake up at 5:30AM to help at an event they aren’t even competing in. And there were certainly moments of all these things- jump judging IS exciting, these horses and riders are awe-inspiring to watch, and I made so many connections with some lovely people. But all these wonderful things have been overshadowed by one thing.

I saw someone die this weekend.

I saw a cute paint horse galloping along in the lane behind me and watched it go by, admiring the balance of the rider and the big galloping stride of the horse. I saw them go down the field, and then I saw a rotational fall that defied physics. The *crack* of the horse crashing into that jump echoed across the field a half-second later, and I heard hysterical voices on the radio calling for a medic. I saw someone giving CPR within 10 seconds and the ambulance was there within 30 seconds and the screens went up.

And then an hour and a half later, I watched more riders come up over our fences and I almost vomited every single time, just hoping that everyone else would be OK. Every time I could radio in and say, “rider clear at fence 21AB,” I leaned over, put my hands on my knees, and let out a big breath.

Because I couldn’t say “rider clear” every time. The ambulance was able to get to Phillipa so quickly because they were nearby at our fence the whole time- after two horses fell at our combo early in the day, they realized that was the place for them to be. We had several more horses fall at that same jump. I got very good at calling in, “rider and horse down at fence 21B, medic is here, lane is not clear.”

Luckily all of the riders that fell at our jump were able to stand up and walk away from their falls, and all of the horses were quickly caught and declared to have no serious injuries.

I took care of the footing around those jumps like you wouldn’t believe, hoping that by packing down the divots and smoothing out the landing I could prevent any more falls. I held my breath when riders took the inside track, knowing that unless every hoof fell in the exact right place, I’d be calling in another fall.

I’m not sure why I’m giving all this detail- I realize this post is a bit rambling. But I’m in a weird headspace right now. This is not my discipline and I won’t pretend to know what developments are in place- Amanda just shared a much more informed post.  This is the perspective of an outsider to the sport who just so happened to be on the inside on this day.

If you are interested, a college fund has been set up for Philippa’s young daughter Millie here.

17 thoughts on “My Day at Jersey Fresh

  1. littlepiecesofme1 05/16/2016 / 8:43 am

    What a horrible and traumatic experience. Light and love to all involved with this tragedy.


  2. heartofhope10 05/16/2016 / 9:19 am

    I was thinking of you and Jenn during all of this. Such a horrible, horrible thing.


  3. emma 05/16/2016 / 9:25 am

    sending hugs. as painful and sad as it is to read about this loss to the community, i can’t even fathom being present to experience it in real time.


  4. shelbyrallen 05/16/2016 / 10:09 am

    A very very dark day for eventing. My heart breaks for her family, her friends and her young daughter, Millie. Thank you for supporting eventing by jump judging, and I send hugs to you after your experience this weekend.


  5. Liz 05/16/2016 / 10:18 am

    *hugs* Thank you for doing what you could. I can’t imagine how stressful a day it was for you. It’s definitely hard to get into a good headspace after that kind of thing. Take your time.


  6. Micaylah 05/16/2016 / 11:31 am

    I didn’t even think about other horses/riders going down. I can’t imagine the anxiety you went through.


  7. Lauren 05/16/2016 / 12:19 pm

    I’m so sorry you had to witness that. Death is unsettling enough… young and tragic death is something our brains don’t know how to comprehend. I don’t have much else to offer but hugs.


  8. Courtney 05/16/2016 / 12:58 pm

    I’m so sorry you witnessed that… I was thinking about you this weekend, hoping it wasn’t where you were stationed.

    It’s all just so sad 😦


  9. Tracy - Fly On Over 05/16/2016 / 1:49 pm

    😦 Such a terrible tragedy.


  10. Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership 05/16/2016 / 2:58 pm

    It’s a horrible tragedy and I’m sorry you were there to witness it. Everything about it sucks.


  11. Stacie Seidman 05/16/2016 / 3:19 pm

    I’m so sorry you happened to be there on that day. Heartbreaking. Thinking of you and everyone connected in any way.


  12. CallyJumps 05/16/2016 / 10:44 pm

    How awful to have been there for that. Generally, I find jump judging really enjoyable, but I also only do it at events that are Int and lower, for a reason.


  13. Erin 05/19/2016 / 11:28 am

    I’m so sorry you witnessed that. I’m impressed by your strength to continue with your job. Hugs.


  14. aHorseForElinor 05/20/2016 / 12:09 am

    I’m so sorry. I feel for the horses, too. For all that we make them do.
    All my thoughts to you and all families involved in this traumatic event.


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