We’re very sad to report that Joey Darby died yesterday morning after battling lung cancer. A much-loved personality in the hunter and eventing communities, he helped riders like Phillip Dutton, Will Faudree, Charlie Plumb and Mike Plumb in the show jumping ring. Joey was a familiar face at Charlie’s farm in Southern Pines, N.C., and his barn manager Hayley Smith sent in this touching tribute. Rest in peace, Joey.
Beloved trainer, rider and judge Joey Darby passed away from cancer yesterday morning surrounded by his closest friends and family. Joey was a true legend in the horse world in many areas, whether it be judging the pony finals at Devon, coaching someone at Fair Hill or piloting a beautiful round to win in a hunter derby. It is hard to say what he has done for our farm and the people here, but I will try my best to touch on a few things.
I met Joey through Charlie Plumb, whom I started working for in 2006. “Joe” had always been Charlie’s go to person for jumping, and his lessons were truly something out of this world. The knowledge he would share with us through just a few sessions was incredible, and through this, we became good friends. We would always look forward to “Joey Days,” where he would come and spend the morning with us and teach.
He helped us with so many tough horses and transformed them. He was tough in how he taught, but never unfair and always honest. I’ll never forget, in my first lesson, he called me over and said quite frankly, “Hayley, why in the hell are you riding that horse like you would drive a wheelbarrow? Pick your hands up and sit down.” He lived for setting up what seemed like impossible exercises for us to maneuver and making us uncomfortable. The bigger our eyes got, the more cheerful he became. After a Joey lesson, you felt like you should have made the team that year.
It has become so apparent to me how loved and how special Joey was to so many. Hunter legends from across the country came to visit, along with so many respected riders of Southern Pines. There are little reminders of Joe all over our farm. From the little tomato plant he grew beside our wash stall, to the half bottle of hair gel he would use to tame my horse’s “swordfish manes,” to the little bamboo poles he made to put over the fences to tighten the legs of a sloppy jumper, he is still here.
He will be forever missed but never forgotten. He was a dear friend to us, and the heartache is all over the States today. Bye for now, to our mentor, friend and team member. From now on, we ride for Joey.