Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2024

Behind The Photo: Loose Horse Leads Itself To Water



On a late-May scorcher in Weatherford, Texas, there was an unexpected kerfuffle during the cross-country phase of the Willow Draw Charity Horse Trials. A bay horse decided that a gallop and a drink was vastly preferable to being tied to a trailer on the sidelines.

Loose horses at equestrian competitions are no laughing matter, of course, but in this case, the runaway mount caused no harm, mostly contributing to a comedic sequence that was a breath of fresh air on that hot Texas day. 

The Willow Draw equestrian facility is owned by Janet and Tre’ Book and covers 125 rolling acres just west of Fort Worth, Texas. The Willow Draw Charity Horse Trials, founded in 2016, is a twice-yearly one-day event, held in May and October, and includes starter through training level. The event raises money for the Semper Fi Fund to support combat veterans.

A loose horse decided wading in the water complex was a better bet than waiting at the trailers during a hot late-May day at the Willow Draw Charity Horse Trials in Weatherford, Tx. Jessica Revels for Jj Sillman Photography Photo

Photographer Jessica Revels, a beginner-novice eventer herself, was working for veteran Area V photographer Jj Sillman as a “second shoot” camera person during the May 25 competition.


“I heard a commotion, saw the horse break away, then there was lots of shouting, ‘Loose horse! Loose horse!’ The horse zigzagged around the trailer area for a bit, then ran out on the cross-country course,” she recalled.

At the same time, Carter Jackson, Jenks, Oklahoma, and O-K Jaxx, her 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood-Thoroughbred cross, were tackling the training level cross-country course. Just as she and “Jaxx” approached at the water complex coming from one direction, the loose horse arrived from the other.

From her position shooting the water, photographer Revels was keeping tabs on the developing drama. 

“I saw Carter off in the distance, and I was sure they would hold her, but nope,” she remembered. “The runaway marched into the water just as Carter did the jump in, and then the jump out.”

For her part, Jackson didn’t spot the extra “element” in the water until she and Jaxx had splashed into the complex. 


“To be honest, I was so focused on the complex we were doing that I didn’t even notice the loose horse until I’d done the A element into the water,” she said. “I saw the horse as I was approaching the B element, and I just told my horse, ‘Get up!’ and we kept going.”

After she successfully navigated the water complex, jump judges stopped her on course briefly up while the loose horse, who had come to a stop in the water complex and dropped its head to have a drink, was caught.

“I pulled up, someone came and caught the loose horse, and then we were on our way,” Jackson said. “And Jaxx was so perfect—he just went on to the last part of the course without missing a beat.” 

The pair ultimately took second place in their division.

Photographer Sillman posted a series of Revel’s photos on her Facebook page, where it garnered lots of comments, including: “LMAO!!! You know that pony was tied to a trailer and said, ‘Bye Mom, I know a waterhole over by the entrance, see ya!’” and “Carter was a couple horses behind me, so I witnessed this from the finish flags with my jaw on the floor. Something new every day!” and “This is EPIC!”

Although his breakaway jaunt was potentially hazardous, the horse, whose name and identity was not immediately known, brought some levity and excitement to an exciting but otherwise routine cross-country trial in a small Texas town. He (or she) showed that a bored and overheated horse can lead itself to water—and can even grab a quick drink. 



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