She Took the Time to Smile

Philippa Humphreys and Rich N Famous ( Philippa Humphreys and Rich N Famous ("Rockstar"). Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

We were there when Philippa Humphreys died. My 10-year-old son and I were jump judge volunteers at Jersey Fresh, and it was going to be the most awesome day. We both event, and for him it was going to be especially great because as a boy he was going to see his male rider role models LIVE!

We were at a good spot, and since the course looped around various times we could closely see our jump, the next two jumps, the finish and the vet box. My son noticed how most riders worked with their grooms at taking care of their horses.

Philippa and Rockstar jumped the skinny combination beautifully. When she nailed the second element, we cheered out loud. She looked at us, smiled, patted her horse and galloped on. It touched me that she took the time to smile at us. “What a cool paint,” we both murmured.

Then it happened. Mere seconds later.

We roamed the grounds as a coping mechanism, and the conversation turned to how riding can be a metaphor for life. My articulate, wise-beyond-his-years little boy discussed how you can only work on increasing your probabilities of success, but in the end, there is always that tinge of the unknown.

Keep your eyes up, heels down, have a good rhythm, and the chances that the jump will go well go up. It’s not for certain, but you are giving it the best chance. Practice often and your chance of getting a ribbon goes up, but it’s not for certain. We ended up walking along the recently mowed fields in silence.

Then we saw Boyd Martin. He was walking away from us, alone on the course. My son looked at me and I said GO! He ran to Boyd. He stopped him, introduced himself and talked to him. About what I don’t know, but my son came back beaming. He was so proud; he was so happy. I got a hug.

I am quietly thankful that Boyd took the time to be gentle and kind to my scared little boy. Amidst his own devastation, he took the time to smile.

THAT encounter is what my son talks about of Jersey Fresh. Yes, eventing is facing immense challenges, but perhaps our sport has also shown itself as an apt metaphor for life. There will always be hardship and variables beyond our control, but we can answer back with hard work, compassion, community and kindness.