The few seconds after Reid Patton landed after the final fence of an amateur-owner jumper class at the Pennsylvania National with Twisther felt like an eternity.
As they galloped forward, Patton was visibly unseated and unable to right herself. Her saddle came off, and Twisther took a couple tours of the ring alone before he was finally caught.
When Patton picked herself and her gear back up, she noticed that her girth was missing three vital pieces—buckles.
Reid Patton holding the three buckles that came off her girth. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
“As my mom said, he literally busted a gut. Full on busted the girth off,” she said with a laugh.
The trouble started in mid-air over the final fence. As Twisther put in a monster effort, the girth snapped. Her saddle stayed centered until they landed, when it started to slide.
“In the air I felt myself get jumped loose, but I could tell he just jumped really hard, so I thought, ‘Oh that’s weird,’ so when I was trying to get back on—like I get jumped loose all the time, he jumps like a freak, but I’m always able to recenter myself—then I was like, ‘why am I not centering’ and then I was like, ‘Oh no!’ I felt my feet were stuck in the stirrups as I was going down, so then I got really scared that I was going to be trampled, which I was, but he luckily just nicked me all around,” she said.
Twisther took a couple rounds of the arena, and eventually pulled off his broken girth. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography.
But the unlikely series of events had an interesting twist, while she did depart from her horse, it didn’t happen until after the timers, which meant she was the second person to qualify for the jump off.
Initially she hadn’t planned on returning. She told herself that if there were less than three to return, she’d call it a night.
“I’d be happy with third, but I wanted to try to win otherwise,” said the 20-year-old.
But five went double clear in the initial round, so Patton tacked up—this time with a brand new girth.
“Going back into the jump off ,they were asking me in the schooling ring, ‘How are you feeling?’ I was kind of joking because I hurt a lot but I was like, ‘I feel like the winner,’ ” she said.
“It hurts to breathe still, and my knee was throbbing, but adrenaline kicks in, and I was going around and I was like, ‘I might as well. I already ate dirt once. Worse case scenario I’m on the ground again!’ I got my magnetic stirrups on this time and bought a new girth,” Patton continued.
But she did more than compete—she won. They were the fastest of the three clean rounds in the jump off, beating out Caitlin Hope and Total Touch.
Reid Patton and Twisther after they won the amateur-owner jumper class. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
“Usually I’m nervous, ‘Am I going to be too deep? Am I going down the line too much? and this time going in I was like, ‘Is my girth going to explode?’ ” she said. “I never thought that was going to be one of the many concerns going into the ring. ‘Is my bit going to stay in his mouth? Is his mane going to magically fall off? What’s going to happen?’ But he was awesome. He jumped his heart out. He jumped the last jump so high again; luckily this time I had a good girth and magnetic stirrups.”
Patton has owned the Dutch Warmblood (Farmer—Esther) for 2 1/2 years, and the pair have had plenty of success in the amateur-owner jumpers with wins at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.). The stallion was previously campaigned by both Jonathan and Christine McCrea to the grand prix level.
“He’s so sweet,” Patton said. “You know you have a keeper when they’re trying to not trample you. I could definitely feel once I was going down. This is not going to be good! Bracing for impact pretty much, fetal position, stop, drop and roll. I don’t know, but it worked out thank god. I’m glad I’m here talking about it.”
Since the incident ended with no major consequences, Patton was able to laugh about in. In fact, she’s been known to take falls in stride. She sent in a photo to the Chronicle’s Missed It Monday newsletter earlier this year after falling off Zoe Velvet at Devon (Pa.).
So I asked her how she’s able to keep such a good attitude when it comes to moments like this.
“The best thing you can do is just laugh about it,” she said.