On July 18, 15-year-old Alexis Halbert fell while jumping in a 1.10-meter children’s jumper class with her horse Charisma at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (North Carolina).
Halbert suffered a serious injury to her back, and Charisma, a 13-year-old warmblood mare (Quasimodo Z—Kim), broke her neck and died instantly.
Halbert’s trainer, Hector Florentino, knew he needed to help her and her family with impending medical expenses, so he set up a fundraiser on Facebook. As of July 27, they’ve raised just over $160,000 of a $320,000 goal.
Charisma had experience to the grand prix level with her previous riders, and Halbert bought her about 1 1/2 years ago. They’d won the children’s classic at Tryon the week before the accident.
“We had decided in our course walk that we wouldn’t run so much in the jump-off,” said Florentino. “We would go quite nice just to have the mare not be too flat for the Sunday that was the classic. She went clear and started her jump-off, but towards the last three jumps the mare started picking up speed, and in the last line, heading towards the last jump, the mare just left one stride out and tangled with the jump and flipped over and landed on top of Alexis.”
Halbert, Melbourne, Florida, was unconscious for a few minutes, then told paramedics she was unable to feel her legs. She was airlifted to Greenville Memorial Hospital (South Carolina), where she was diagnosed with three broken vertebrae—T5, T7 and T8. Doctors operated and inserted plates and screws to stabilize and protect her spine.
Florentino said doctors expected the swelling to come down in a few days, and Halbert did have some short-lived feeling in her feet and even moved a toe, but she’s been unable to move her legs since.
“When [her family] was doing research on where to take her, they contacted the Shepherd Center [in Atlanta], and they were sent how much it would cost, but insurance said they wouldn’t pay for it,” said Florentino. “It was $320,000, and her mom was panicking because they don’t have that money. Giovanna [Pellicano] who works for me had the idea. The Kevin Babington Foundation helped a lot. The Shepherd Center had asked for $80,000 upfront, and they put that money upfront.
“It would be a shame that her parents would go broke just for her to be able to walk again,” Florentino added. “I just thought it was a great idea from Giovanna. I’m surprised how many people have supported it. Alexis is such a nice, good young girl. She has a good heart, and I’m glad a lot of people have supported her.”
Florentino reports that Halbert is in good spirits. “She feels positive,” he said. “She’s asking about everybody at the barn, and she misses us. She sends me pictures of her just eating a quesadilla or drinking lemonade—just goofy stuff. I speak with her mom once a day. She keeps me posted. The surgeon feels hopeful that it’s going to work out.”