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    [RC] [Guest] River Run tragedy - Ridecamp Moderator

    Megan Davis FarFast@xxxxxxx
    Before Saturday was done there were so many rumors circulating around camp about what happened at River Run with regard to the horse that was euthanized that I thought it best to have the story from the horse's mouth, so here goes:
    There were 2 juniors, Dustin and Sandra, riding with a sponsor, Lynn, who is Dustin's grandmother, and 2 other riders namely me and Sevi Martinez all running together in the front of the pack. We were on the last 10 mile segment heading for home and were about 3 miles from the previous vet check. We came fast through an open field, slowed through some woods, fast along another open section and then had to guide our horses through a tight S-bend, left then right around a large oak tree then left down a steep but short slope, into a ditch and sharp left onto a packed dirt road.
    As we headed into that section of trail, I was in front and Dustin was immediately behind me. I do not know the order of the other 3 horses. As I headed around the oak tree I put my hand up in the traditional "caution, I'm slowing" signal and pulled my horse to a very slow trot. As I went down the steep slope Dustin's horse was very close to me and I heard a sickening cracking sound. I turned in the saddle to see Dustin's horse pulling back and holding up a broken right front leg. I could see the opening through the skin and between that and the angle of the leg knew that the horse had suffered a severe fracture, probably in multiple places.
    At the time we had no clue what had happened and did what we could with regard to horse, rider, tack etc and I won't bore you with those details.
    At the time I could only assume that as Dustin's horse had come up very rapidly against the rear end of mine that he had kicked out and hit Dustin's horse. I was confused as I had not felt any movement that would indicate that he had kicked out, he was in such a precarious position I couldn't see how he could kick, and knew that for over 2000 endurance miles, including sponsoring juniors, coming first, coming last, etc, my horse has not even attempted to kick another horse. In fact, when I ride with people who are concerned about stopping their horses I tell them just to steer them into the back of Sanyati because that will stop their horse. I have never had a minute of concern that he would kick them.
    As I say, I only assumed that was what had happened and felt sick and saddened about it. I could not get angry at my horse because if he had kicked it would only be instinct from something rushing up to him from behind.
    I had a cell phone with me but could not get any service. Sevi Martinez then rode back to the previous check to get the Vets to come to the scene. In doing so he clearly sacrificed his First place position (because he was riding the most spectacular horse and I have little doubt he would have won if there had been a race at the finish) to help out a horse and rider in need. In the meantime I wandered around the corn field until finally I got a faint signal and was able to contact the ride manager and get the Vets to the scene.
    Once they arrived and I realized there was nothing more I could do, I took Sandra (the other junior) and headed for home. Some other riders had caught up to us (we had had a good 20 to 30 minute lead on them prior to that) so we rode with them. I then suggested to Sandra that as our horses were fresh from their 20 or more minute rest that we should try to win the ride - to honor Dustin. My thought was that even though he couldn't finish the ride, we were taking his spirit with us on the way! She said she would like to do that and off we went. The end was a mad race but I was first senior and Sandra was first Junior.
    The victory was hollow and both Sandra and I still fell ill about the whole event.
    Sevi came in in 9th place, despite his extra 6 miles and many minutes of waiting around and so on.
    The interesting thing was what he told Pam later - he had actually watched Dustin's horse get it's foot caught in a root on the way down the slope and my horse, Sanyati, had not kicked the horse at all. Sevi was a jockey and says he has seen those injuries on the track and he knew what happened the minute he saw the hoof in the hole and heard the crack.

    So that's what happened. No more rumors please.

    There are many lessons to be learnt from this event. The first and foremost is that there were a number of factors that contributed to the event but there is no blame to be placed on anyone, least of all the horses.
    I will have one new habit from now on and that is to be very forceful in telling people to keep off my horse's rear end and I will do my best to keep my horse off the other horses out there. Not for the kicking issue alone, but because if their nose is on another horse's butt they cannot possibly see where their feet are!
    Ride management awarded Dustin the Shelby Cook perpetual trophy which is given to someone who epitomises the spirit of endurance.
    So, in parting, I can only say I feel deeply sad for Dustin for loosing the horse he was riding and obviously loved and a very heartfelt sadness and sympathy for Lynn who lost her very dear and obviously wonderful first horse, experienced such a sorrowful day for her grandson, and had to make what is surely the most difficult decision a person has to make for the animal they love.

    Megan Davis.

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