Our Family Is Stronger And Closer

Jun 2, 2011 - 4:37 PM
Jennie Brannigan (left) posed with friends and barnmates Lillian Heard and Boyd Martin at The Fork Horse Trials in April. Photo by Amber Heintzberger.

At 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 31, a fire destroyed Boyd Martin’s barn at Phillip Dutton’s True Prospect Farm in West Grove, Pa. Six horses died and many others were injured.

Three years ago I had the opportunity to come to True Prospect Farm, and needless to say, coming here has changed my life. Little by little I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the Duttons, the Martins, Ryan Wood, Caitlin Silliman, and last but not least Lillian Heard.

Lillian is the type of friend who changes your life. Slowly but surely our friendship has become something that is a once-in-a-lifetime bond. She has literally picked me up off the floor more than once. I can say without a doubt that being around her was one of the only reasons I was able to overcome losing Cooper.

Lillian makes you want to be a better person and a better friend. She’s always there not matter the circumstances, and it’s an honor to know her and be around her on a normal day, let alone after what she did two nights ago. She’s stronger than I can only dream of being, and because she doesn’t like to be called a hero, I’ll call her a champion instead, in every sense of the word. 

Caitlin Silliman loved Catch A Star from the first moment she laid eyes on her. You know when someone fits a horse just perfectly—their bond makes the horse go better than it ever could. When Caitlin purchased that mare she did so on her gut instinct and even with a little skepticism from others.

I’ll say without a shadow of a doubt that Caitlin rides the horse better than anyone—10 times better than I rode her. You can tell from watching them that they have this kind of bond that you really don’t see all that much anymore.

It’s been so amazing to watch that little mare grow. I had the pleasure of riding her at her first event and sold her to Rachel Dwyer, who still loves her dearly, and it’s astonishing to see how amazing that mare goes with Caitlin. She was a champion at Jersey Fresh, and I know that they will still do great things together. Even with burns all over her body and no forelock, Hoku is a beautiful, dainty thing, and she’s a fighter. 

Woodzy, A.K.A. Ryan Wood, has ironically come to be one of the people I relate to and get along with best with at Phillip’s. To be co-riders with him for Phillip has turned out to work out better than I ever imagined.

Woodzy is not only tough, he’s a very reliable and faithful person. He’s talented and can break a baby and then ride your upper-level horse better than you. I’ve seen him ride some tough horses, and I’m so excited for him that he just got an amazing horse named Classic that will surely blow everyone away. Woodzy deserves everything good that comes his way. He has done everything on his own and is a truly self-made eventer, and I don’t think many people can say that about themselves. I know that I can’t. 

Then there’s Boyd Martin, whom words do not describe…. Riding around Boyd everyday makes me hungrier and better in every sense of the word. He loves his horses and is so hardworking you wouldn’t believe it.

When I’m feeling bad, Boyd has a way of bringing things into perspective and making you push yourself harder. He has that drive that not many people possess, and to watch him go into that barn when he literally had to fight to do so is just beyond admirable.

Neville Bardos is one tough cookie, and he and Boyd have some similar traits. I know that Nev will be back to fight in the ring another day. 

Phillip and Evie Dutton are leaders to all of us. Phillip has done more than one astonishing thing since I have had the pleasure to work for him. His involvement the other night is not the only amazing thing that man is done. Whether it’s saving horses, being there when you’re hurt or helping you see the light at the end of the tunnel, Phillip does it all. Evie is another mother to me, and their children are the most amazing kids I’ve ever met.

True Prospect is a family, and it is one that I am so proud to have the honor of being a part of. 

My heart breaks for Faye, the Juvonens, Abbey, Lil, Anne and Bonnie. Thank you to Kelley Merette, Silva and her crew who helped get the horses to New Bolton and care for them, and all the people who did laundry and have sent flowers and food to TPF. 

After all of this, I know our family is stronger and closer, and we will all pull through this together.


Brannigan Eventing


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