Updated: Cambridge Dies At Devon Horse Show

May 25, 2015 - 11:22 AM
Emma Kurtz's ride Cambridge sadly suffered a fatal fall at the Devon Horse Show on May 23 while competing in a junior hunter division. Photo by Kimberly Loushin

Small junior hunter Cambridge suffered a fatal accident in the Dixon Oval on May 23 during the Devon Horse Show (Pa.). 

Cambridge was competing in the small junior hunter, 15 and under, stakes class with rider Emma Kurtz. Cambridge fell badly at the in element of a two-stride in-and-out, a vertical, and died. Kurtz was uninjured.

Trainers Amanda Lyerly and Mike Rheinheimer were at the rail when the accident occurred. They said he schooled beautifully before the class, but the wind and crowds left from the afternoon’s leadline class did unsettle him when he went in the ring to compete. 

“Emma knows how to handle that,” said Rheinheimer. “She jumped the first jump, and he was a little spooky, and she added [a stride] in the next line. She jumped in great into the outside line, and he started looking [left] toward the in-gate. I think he looked up into the stands, and I don’t think he ever really looked at the jump. I don’t think he ever saw the gate or the rail. The rail and gate were tangled in his legs, and he landed on his head.”

Kurtz was distraught following the accident, and Lyerly talked to other professionals to see how she could best help her student. Kurtz was scheduled to compete another horse in the large junior hunter, 15 and under, stakes class an hour later, but Lyerly’s main concern was for her student’s wellbeing.

“Everyone said, ‘If she’s not hurt, the longer you wait to get her on a horse, the more fear would come,’ ” said Lyerly. “We talked about it and asked if she wanted to get on and ride around. The owners of the horse offered to scratch, or to get her on just to get her on, or whatever she wanted to do. She got on and jumped a few jumps, and she said, ‘Do you care if I try to show?’ I give her a lot of credit, to prove to herself that she could do it. I said to her, ‘If you want to make a circle because you feel like you can’t do it, if you want to add, that’s fine. Just go in there and do what you have to do.’ ”

But Kurtz composed herself and laid down a beautiful trip on Prologue to finish second in the class.

Cambridge, owned by Scott Stewart, was a 10-year-old German Warmblood (Catoki—Lavina, Lavall I). Stewart sent Kurtz the horse as a project right after Devon last year, and Cambridge lived and trained with Lyerly and Rheinheimer at their Madison Hills Farm in Gates Mills, Ohio.

Lyerly described “Catall” as a sweetheart who had developed a strong bond with Kurtz.

“No one rode him but her; she did it all herself,” said Lyerly. “They worked really hard together. He was third in the handy class that morning, which was a huge thing.”

“Emma’s so young; I feel awful for that to have happened to her,” Stewart said. “I think it was a good thing she got on and rode again. She’s a great kid, and Amanda does a great job with her and with the horses. He was good in the handy, but he’s a first year horse and a little spooky. Emma did a great job on him, but he was looking at the in-gate and not the jump. It’s very sad.”

“Emma does a lot of catch riding, and Scott has been kind enough to send her horses sometimes, so she can have something consistent so she can have goals,” Lyerly said. “It was so generous of him to send her that horse to bring along. She was very patient with him and wanted to do it right. We went to a horse show a few weeks ago, and the weather was up, and he was a little goofy, and she just shrugged and said, ‘It’s OK, he’s learning.’ 

“She spent a lot of time with him, on and off his back,” added Lyerly. “She loves all the animals, and he was really special to her. Emma is absolutely devastated.”

Kurtz, 14, and Cambridge won classes at shows like the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.), Kentucky Spring Classic and Ohio Professional Horseman’s Association Spring Festival. Most recently they won the division championship at the Kentucky Spring Classic.

Lyerly confirmed that Cambridge was transported to University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center Hospital after the accident, and that blood was drawn for analysis as per U.S. Equestrian Federation protocol.

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