On Being Considerate and Well-Informed

Emily Cammock and Dambala. Photo by Kasey Mueller.

Emily Cammock and Dambala. Photo by Kasey Mueller.

With the first four-star of the year behind us, we have naturally experienced a vast array of emotions in the past five days, taking us from exhilaration to deepest disappointment and back again. Sadly, there was a pall of misery hanging over the conclusion of the event, with the euthanasia of Emily Cammock’s Dambala following a catastrophic injury on cross country.

As it often is with a tragedy such as this, there exists a need for comment and discussion of the matters at hand. Let me be plain at the front, so that there is no mistaking or mis-reading of my opinions here: Many of the comments and reactions that I read on the initial report were no less than sickening and disgusting displays of ignorance and heedlessness. The loss of a horse, at any level, is a terrible tragedy, and to instinctually react with blame and assumption serves only to reveal the writer as a thoughtless and rash human being.

It is easy, in this day and age of instantaneous reporting and unbridled personal access via social media, to forget that not everyone is entitled to every scrap of information. When we first reported that Dambala was to be euthanized, many members of the public jumped to conclusions that were neither fair nor accurate, and made judgements based on those fallacies. Simply put, it is not your right as a random person off the streets to know precisely the details that led to Emily’s decision, nor is it her obligation to divulge absolutely everything to you.

It is, however, your duty to remain compassionate and consider that there sometimes may be more to the story, especially as news is breaking. It is your duty to reserve judgement and impassioned speculation until the point at which you can make an educated and informed decision. To assume the worst and to hide behind the relative anonymity of a computer screen only serves to embarrass yourself.

To those of you who recklessly jumped to conclusions and publicly decried Emily’s decision to end her partner’s suffering, shame on you. The fact that your actions were loud enough to make her feel like she had to justify her actions is awful, and we as a community should have treated her with more respect and humanity.

There is no one more aware of the risks that we ask our equine partners to take than the riders at this level. There is simply no way to compete a beloved partner at the highest levels of the sport and not share an incredible bond with them. The magic of flying over a seemingly impossible fence while feeling the line of communication grow stronger is something that cannot be explained, only experienced. You will never find a fellow competitor or professional who will feel anything other than empathy for the loss of such a partner.

Last spring I found myself writing a similar defense, upon the death of Conair at The Fork, when a group of armchair experts much like the ones from yesterday took it upon themselves to throw blame upon Will Coleman, the sport of eventing, the course designers and everything in between. I said it then, and I stand by it still: Your typed accusations lead me to believe that you have never met an event rider, as you seem to think us a cruel, insensitive and unfeeling group of people.

Emily Cammock did not euthanize her partner of over five years for convenience, nor did she do so because he would no longer be useful as a competition animal. Emily showed deep love for the horse by making a compassionate decision to end suffering that would only increase with time. To keep a horse alive and suffering is not kindness; it is selfishness.

While I hope that there will be no occasion to write about this again, I know that inevitably tragedy will strike our community at some point. My only request is that members of the public step back and consider their actions and comments before writing them, and can manage to be ashamed of behaving in a way that they would never dream of doing in person. Next time, when typing an accusation or assumption, imagine a human being in a terrible situation in front of you, rather than a blank computer screen, and proceed from there.