“It is with incredible difficulty that I relate news of the tragic passing of my cherished partner RF Smoke on the Water,” U.S. eventer Marilyn Little announced in a statement released today, May 1:
“Along with four other RF Eventers including his close stablemate RF Demeter, ‘Smoke’ had just returned to our summer base at Raylyn Farms in Maryland to begin a well deserved holiday following a brilliant weekend at Rolex, where he produced two double-clear performances in cross-country and show jumping. Two days after his arrival, during a late-morning habitual roll in the new bedding that had just been placed in his stall before he went out for the day, Smoke became cast against the wall and was struggling.
Though Raylyn staff and his longtime caretaker Emily Dufort were immediately in his stall to assist Smoke in righting himself, it became clear that Smoke had sustained an injury during his struggle. At the recommendation of Dr. Richard Forfa who was quickly on the scene at Raylyn to evaluate Smoke’s condition, an emergency equine rescue service was contacted to transport Smoke to The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, where he has since been under the care of Dr. Martin Furr and his team. Based on examinations, imaging, system chemistry panels and consultations with other veterinarians, Dr. Furr suggests that Smoke had sustained undefined traumatic injury to his central nervous system while he was cast, possibly due to damage to the cervical or lumbar spine sustained during the ordeal.
The tragedy of this day for myself and all of those that have been involved with this incredible horse that touched so many with his heart and live-loving outlook is indescribable. For me, Smoke was the most elegant of partners, a loyal teammate, and a truly wonderful friend. For others, he was a magnetic presence that you sensed was sure of himself in every way; his charismatic persona, can-do attitude, super-sized talent, thorough self confidence, prankster character, and acute awareness of his own stunningly good looks couldn’t help but make you smile.
Whether he was mischievously kicking up his heels in a dressage test, attacking cross-country (his favorite pastime) at age 7 with the skill and wisdom of a 12-year-old, or making light work of the show jumping phase in his debut CCI****, Smoke squeezed every ounce of fun out of every day and put everything he had into every moment. Though I am so thankful for the time that I had with him and feel so blessed to have been a part of his journey, I am stunned by his sudden loss and devastated for the many people surrounding him whose hearts he had captured.
My deepest condolences to Phoebe and Michael Manders, who bravely partnered with me on a horse they had never seen, who was going to compete in a sport they knew nothing about (but have since come to love); I cannot thank you enough for your support and friendship.
My endless gratitude to the team around Smoke that have tirelessly poured their hearts and time into this incredible horse, to help him reach for the stars, and ensure that his happiness, health, and spirit were all they could be: Karen O’Connor, David O’Connor, Haynes Stevens, Nikki Stokes, Chuck Jones, Roger Scullin and Edwin Enzerink. A special thank you to Emily Dufort, who devotes her life to our wonderful team of horses and stands behind each and every success, and to my parents Ray and Lynne Little, who have jumped every jump with me and made it possible to have had Smoke in my life.
Finally, my greatest thanks to RF Smoke On The Water, the mightiest champion with the wings on his feet; you were the littlest horse with the biggest of names. Thank you for your heart, may you always know that you have captured mine. You are forever loved, and you will always be missed my friend.”