March 4, 2010 -- Bad luck has plagued Courtney King-Dye in the last six months, as two of her top horses had to be put down, but yesterday fate dealt a far worse blow when a fall left the Olympic dressage rider in a coma.
"It's not good," said her worried mentor, Lendon Gray, who has been keeping a vigil with Courtney's husband and father as the 32-year-old equestrian lies unconscious in St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach.
Courtney was injured Wednesday while schooling a horse in Loxahatchee, about a half-hour from Wellington, near the grounds where the Palm Beach Dressage Derby is being held this weekend.
Recounting the accident, Lendon said of the horse, "We think one hind foot stepped on the other and he sort of semi sat down and tipped over sideways. She was basically under him; she stayed in the tack and obviously her head hit the ground."
Paramedics were on the scene quickly and Courtney, who had suffered a skull fracture, was taken by helicopter to the hospital.
"Overnight the pressure on her brain went down," Lendon reported. That was the good news. But she said a neurologist had no idea when Courtney might wake up. "She could wake up right now or it could be weeks or even months."
Added Lendon, "we're just crossing our fingers and praying like mad."
Mary Anne McPhail, executive director of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, said the organization has started a fund to aid Courtney in her medical emergency. Courtney had been scheduled to ride Don Principe in the Derby's Prix St. Georges tomorrow.
"We're going to donate all the proceeds from our international tent and we're hoping other people will contribute and help Courtney with her medical expenses. I'm sure this is going to be very hard on her and her family," said Mary Anne.
She noted those who want to assist can send checks made out to Palm Beach Derby Courtney King-Dye Fund to her at 50 Blossom Way, Palm Beach, FL 33480.
"It's a spur of the moment thing; what we want to do is help," she commented.
Courtney often wears a helmet, but she was not in this instance. Lendon said that for the last 15 years of her riding career, she wore a helmet and hoped she could encourage others to do the same, but helmets are rarely seen at a dressage show.
Another Grand Prix rider Heather Blitz has started a campaign that urges dressage riders to wear helmets, as she requires her students to do.
Citing the need for dressage riders to acknowledge the inherent risks of being on a horse, she said, "Courtney's accident reminds us all how vulnerable we are around horses.
"We cannot foresee these tragedies, but we can take measures to safeguard ourselves, not only for us as riders but for the sake of our loved ones. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Courtney and her family as she faces this medical challenge and we wish her a full and speedy recovery. As professionals in a sport we all love, we owe it to each other to learn from this and further promote safe practice."
Former U.S. dressage chef d'equipe Jessica Ransehousen said she spoke with dressage judges on the derby grounds today and they were recommending that people wear helmets.
Twenty years ago, almost to the day, show jumper Katie Monahan Prudent suffered a critical head injury after being thrown from her horse in a class at the Winter Equestrian Festival. She was wearing an old-fashioned hunt cap which offered little in the way of protection in the era before approved helmets were fashionable.
Katie, who made a complete recovery, at one time was an opponent of helmets citing the clunkiness of early versions. She now wears one--as all jumper riders are required to do--and yesterday was in the ribbons in a grand prix, as she often is.
In October, Courtney's Olympic mount, Mythilus, had to be euthanized and 10 days later, another of her horses, Rendezvous 3, met the same fate after shattering a pastern bone.