The Conair Syndicate's Conair died following a fall on cross-country at The Fork Horse Trials on April 6.
Will Coleman was competing the 11-year-old Anglo-European gelding in the advanced, test A, division when they fell at fence 17AB, the Bridlewood Wine and Intersource Cheese complex of a table and a skinny wedge.
Conair and Coleman, who broke his collarbone, both got up and the gelding galloped around the field until he was caught and transported back to the stables for evaluation.
While undergoing a veterinary exam, he collapsed and died. The cause of death is currently unknown.
The Fork released the following statement:
"It was it with great sadness that we announce that Conair, ridden by Will Coleman and owned by the Conair Syndicate, collapsed and died at The Fork event in Norwood, N.C., at approximately 9:45 a.m. on the date above. Earlier Will and Conair had a fall on the Advanced cross country course and Conair proceeded to run back towards the barns. He was stopped and then transported to the barn for veterinary evaluation.
"After the preliminary veterinary exam was completed, Conair collapsed and died. Cause of death has not yet been determined.
"The entire organizing committee and officials extends its heartfelt condolences to Will Coleman and the Conair Syndicate at this difficult time."
Coleman posted a message on his Facebook page thanking people for their kind thoughts.
"Just wanted to thank everyone for their support. I'm sorry that I don't have more to say right now. Today's events have been hard for me to swallow, and my sadness is overwhelming me at the moment. I'm truly numb, and will miss the 'Joe' dearly. Forgive me for not being more reflective than that at the moment, but thank you again for the kind words and thoughts."
Coleman and Conair finished third in the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI*** (Md.) last fall and seventh in the CIC*** at the Carolina International (N.C.) two weeks ago. They were aiming for the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** this spring.
On April 7, Coleman released another statement on his Facebook page, stating that necropsy results are pending, but it is thought that Conair died of internal hemmorhaging as a result of his fall.
"It is difficult for me to make any sort of statement regarding the events of yesterday. While I have yet to receive the full necropsy report, it is clear from preliminary findings that Joey passed from some sort of internal hemorrhaging. As soon as we arrived at the main stables at the Fork, it became apparent that his injuries were more severe than just a banged stifle, and at that point, there was very little that we or the vets could do. It all happened so fast. I take some comfort in that Katie, Shannon, Nanki, and I were there for Joey’s final moments. He certainly would have known how loved he was.
For me personally, the whole episode was the realization of my greatest fear as a professional event rider. We are a courageous bunch, but our horses are sacred. In many ways, I cherish their well-being more than my own. I am sure that many of my peers feel the same way. Just as I take responsibility for everything regarding their care, training, and happiness, it is hard for me to not feel responsible for this horrid accident.
That being said, things happen in life that are simply tragic and hard to explain. The loss of a horse is no different than losing a family member. One of the few things that lessens the pain is being able to tell them how much they meant to you and how much they were loved before they are gone. Lucky for us, a horseman gets to convey that to his horses everyday; in the way that we care for them, exercise them, and train them, in the various ways that we make them aware that their happiness matters to us. In this regard, I have no doubt that Joey knew how much he meant to us. Anyone who knew him could testify to his zeal for life and work. He did not get by on talent. He was all heart, the “Rudy” of equines. His work ethic will continue to inspire me, and his joyful presence will always be missed."
Read the complete statement here.