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.