By: Brittany Bevis
Our readers will undoubtedly remember a bittersweet story we shared last month about APHA youth, Olivia Eagles, who suffered a horrible, double tragedy just weeks before the 2018 APHA Youth World Championship Show.
In early June, Olivia’s father, Preston, was en-route to work when he was involved in a horrific motor vehicle accident. Although he was immediately transported to a local hospital, complications due to a badly broken left leg were too much to overcome, and Preston passed away on Friday, June 7th at 11:59 pm. At the same time, unknown to the family, Olivia’s horse, Chipped In Roses, was undergoing a struggle of his own.
Many in the APHA community will be familiar with Chipped In Roses, aka “Brett,” as the 15-year-old gelding that helped Olivia win seven World Championship titles and three Reserve World Championship titles in a variety of disciplines from 2011 to 2017. Recently, Brett was transported from his home in Missouri to Texas to prepare for a vet check for his soon-to-be new owner. Sadly, Brett had an accident in his stall and was found with a badly broken left leg the day after Olivia’s father’s accident. “My dad passed away at 11:59 pm on Thursday night, and I found out about Brett on Friday morning. I just keep trying to tell myself that they’re in heaven, together.”
Thanks to the generosity of the Simons Show Horses family and barn mate, Jennifer Merchant, Olivia was able to show Jennifer’s 5-year-old gelding, Skyfall Sensation, in all-around events at the Youth World Show. For trainer, Sara Simons, Jennifer, and Olivia, the occasion helped to create a special bond, because they have all lost their fathers.
During the show, Olivia and “Bond” competed in 18 and Under all-around events with some very high placings in classes the green gelding had never participated in before. They placed 3rd in Western Pleasure, 6th in Horsemanship, 7th in Equitation, 9th in Showmanship, and 16th in Hunter Under Saddle.
But more important than the final placings, for a brief time, Olivia and her family were surrounded by their horse show family and were able to regain some sense of normalcy during a very difficult time in their lives. They went to the year-end awards ceremony, enjoyed barn dinners, participated in late night practices, posed for win photos, and did all the things they’d planned on doing before that sad day on June 7th.
“Getting to show at the World Show gave me a reason to smile in the toughest of times. I was given this gift by the most thoughtful, caring, and generous friends that anyone could have. I’m so thankful for my World Show experience. I enjoyed every minute of it: the early morning practices, riding a new horse, catching up with old friends, having barn dinners, and competing. Those memories will last a lifetime! My Mom and I want to thank all of the people who helped us in every way to make this happen to honor my Dad and Brett. Sara, Jana, and Andrea Simons, RJ King, Jennifer Merchant, Belinda, Ali, Paul and Marylyn, you are our friends for life!”
The journey back to the reality of daily life following a horse show is something that every equestrian must face; but, for the Eagles family, it’s quite different. However, with the support of family and friends in the horse industry, we know they will move confidently into the future, while holding on to the memories of the past.