Olympic hopeful horses die in north Georgia crash
The staff at Pollard Eventing in Chatsworth, Georgia try to return to business as usual after a crash last Friday claimed the lives of three of their Olympic hopeful horses.
"To lose a lot of your top horses we spend a huge amount of time with. They're like members of the family," says owner Michael Pollard.
He and his staff have been preparing the horses for the international stage, so it's a tough pill for them to swallow.
Six horses were being taken to their veterinarian in Kentucky for routine exams when the accident occurred near the stables on Highway 225. A driver ran a stop sign and hit the Pollard vehicle driven by Pollard's wife, Nathalie, toppling the trailer. Trainer Alison Wallaby was the passenger.
"It just felt like somebody picked up the trailer and just threw us on our side," recalls Wallaby.
Thankfully, she and Nathalie weren't hurt. But one horse died at the scene and two others a couple days later. It's an image Wallaby has never seen in all her years in equestrian training.
"I've been with horses for a really long time and I've seen a lot of terrible things," says Wallaby. "But nothing like when they cut a hole in that trailer and you could really just see it all."
She's thankful for the help of the rescue crews and witnesses who helped try to free the animals. Some of those which were alive while trapped were sedated to make the rescue easier.
This tight-knit group at Pollard tries to cope with support from the local and eventing communities. They were hoping to see these horses compete in London this summer.
"Since that's no longer a very good opportunity at this point, we've got to re-focus on how do we get ourselves back into that position," explains Pollard.
But they're not giving so fast. Although the most experienced horses perished in the accident, one of the survivors, Hanni, is their last hope. She's a long shot, according to Pollard, but she's also a fighter. She was good enough to make it to the Pan Am games last year and will head to Canada in a couple weeks for an Olympic trial.
"I'm still excited about the future although I'm pretty hurt about what happened," says Pollard.
According to law enforcement the other driver is a 29 year-old male who was arrested and charged with failure to yield and driving with an expired license. He is out on bond awaiting his court date.