Tragedy at Jersey Fresh event

By Nancy Jaffer
May 15, 2016

Philippa Humphreys, pictured here on Rich N Famous at the Fair Hill International in 2014, died at the Jersey Fresh International Saturday, May 14, 2016, in a rotational fall with the horse, who was not injured.

On a day that started with glorious weather and perfect ground conditions, it seemed all the effort that had gone into improving this year’s Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event was paying off. A record crowd was tailgating around the Jersey Shore cross-country water complex and in the adjacent field at the Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown.

A stellar list of riders was contesting the Olympic selection trial, and the trade fair — grown to impressive proportions — was set to great effect around the outside of the cross-country course and the main arena, as opposed to being walled off in a pavilion.

But the day was marred by two heart-breaking accidents. Early in the morning, Inoui Van Bost, ridden by Skyler Decker, was injured at a Trakehner, the 19th fence on the CCI 2-star course. He was taken to the New Jersey Equine Clinic in nearby Millstone, where he was euthanized.

Sadly, worse was to come. A few hours later, at fence 16, the Grand Table, on the CCI 3-star course, Philippa Humphreys was killed in a rotational fall, when her horse, Rich N Famous fell on her after she hit the ground. The mother of six-month-old Millie, Philippa was a very experienced eventer. A native of Great Britain, she was based in Michigan. Her horse was not injured.

Jersey Fresh Safety Coordinator Rusty Lowe noted a bystander nearby who was a nurse immediately gave Philippa CPR after the 12:38 p.m. accident, and emergency medical staff members were there within 45 seconds. “Heroic” efforts were made to resuscitate her before she was transported to a local trauma center, where she was pronounced dead an hour later.

She was wearing an air vest that deployed and had “full protective gear,” according to Rusty. He explained that the mechanics of the fall and the entire weight of the horse falling on top of her “caused severe enough injuries that she couldn’t survive.”

Course designer John Williams said there was “nothing unusual” about the table that could have led to a problem.

“It was meant to be one of the big, easy-galloping fences in between other questions. It had a round face,” said John.

“It was not a fence that had caused any other trouble.”

The officials, organizers and riders all were subdued by the loss of life, human and equine. Plans for music and dancing at a Saturday night dinner were scrapped, and the occasion was simply used as an opportunity for a meal where those involved could draw comfort from each other.

“It was a really tough day,” said Holly Payne Caravella of Gladstone, who stood second after cross-country in the CCI 2-star on Bruisyard Hall.

She noted, however, that the falls of Skyler’s and Philippa’s horses came at straightforward fences, as opposed to difficult combinations.

For more on Jersey Fresh, click here for a rundown of what happened on Sunday, May 15, 2016.

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