Following the death of Katharine Morel and her horse Kerry On at the February Rocking Horse Winter III Horse Trials (Florida) due to a rotational fall at a table on the cross- country course, upper-level rider Jonathan Holling knew he had to do something.
Together with the U.S. Eventing Association Foundation and several stakeholders in the sport, Holling helped lead fundraising efforts to allow more events to have frangible tables on their courses. Since the fundraising was announced, the Manton Foundation established a $250,000 matching grant, which will be given in $50,000 increments.
The overall goal is $500,000, and the effort is inching closer due in part to a fun bet Holling and fellow eventer Rick Wallace came up with during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, when donations began slowing down.
Holling announced on his Facebook page that he would get a #FRANGIBLENOW tattoo if people donated another $50,000.
“My goal was to get a couple of dollars under the goal before the first horse leaves the start box and not quite get there and maybe not have to get the tattoo!” he said. “I was amazed by how much money we raised. We got up to around $63,000, which was amazing. I wasn’t sorry that it happened, that’s for sure.”
Holling already has five tattoos, including one of his former top horse Downtown Harrison and another of a horse his tattoo artist convinced him to get.
“Everybody has to have a tattoo you regret, right?” he said with a laugh. “It’s one of those things that once you get one it’s a little bit addictive, so it wasn’t too hard to convince me anyway.”
Holling is talking with Wallace and USEA President Max Corcoran about ways to get people donating for the next $50,000 match. He says skydiving has been mentioned, but he’s not so sure about it.
“I want to get to the point where every fence that can be frangible is frangible. That’s kind of the whole goal of this,” he said. “To be honest, $500,000 will just be a start, but it’s a solid start towards that goal. Tables are only one type of fence, and you certainly don’t want to go out to a cross-country course and every single gallop fence is a frangible table. There are so many good types of jumps to jump. The idea with this is to replace existing tables. Then once we get that done, the hope is that then we’ll have some money left over to fund other frangible jumps like oxers, gates, open corners and whatever else is available.”
As of July 7, the fund has just over $323,000 and still has $100,000 in matching funds available. About $76,000 is still needed to meet the $500,000 goal.
The grant program is in Phase 2, meaning the grants are currently open for Fédération Equestre Internationale competitions at the two-star level and up, and that ends July 12. To date, 62 national and FEI events have applied for grants for a total of 112 table grants and kits. They’ve been distributed in order of event dates.
“It’s been amazing, all the support that people have poured into it,” said Holling. “Everybody in the entire sport should be really proud that we all came together and are getting this done. It’s pretty remarkable, especially during this time and this pandemic, that we’re able to raise this kind of money to make the sport safer. It’s huge, in my opinion. I was thrilled that I could be a small part of it, but it’s really the entire eventing community that stepped up and did it.”
So was it worth the pain? “Oh, for sure—100 percent,” he said. “The best tattoo I ever got. It was the most expensive tattoo that I’ve ever gotten!”
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