By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
All Bonnie Davis wanted to do was spend some time horseback riding with her friend, Jackie Hunt. Now she’s spending her time planning a fundraiser to help pay for her friend’s hospital bills.
The fundraising event called “Ride for Jackie” will take place on Sunday, Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sky River Equestrian Center located in Sultan. The event will include an obstacle course, hot lunch, silent auction and raffle. Hunt, who fell from her horse in September after an encounter with two motorcycle riders, suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the fall. All proceeds from the benefit will go towards Hunt’s medical bills which include the cost of the aid car, two trips to the emergency room, and her follow-up medical care.
“She’s discovering, every day, things that are challenges that weren’t before,” said Davis.
On Sunday Sept. 8, Davis, who lives in Monroe, was riding through the Mann Road trails in Sultan with her friend, Hunt. They were just getting ready to call it a day when they encountered two motorcycle riders.
The encounter, while unexpected, did not immediately cause alarm to either Davis or Hunt. They occasionally encounter motorized vehicles on the local trail systems, and normally have no issues at all with the local off-road vehicle community.
“This was an isolated incident,” said Davis. “It’s outraged the motorcycle community, as well.”
The confrontation was unexpected because the Mann Road trails are located on 50,000 acres of privately managed timberland on which motor vehicles are prohibited. The management firm has granted conservation access which allows horseback riding, dog walking, backpacking, walking, bicyclists and legal hunting.
Unfortunately, the motorcycle riders, in addition to being on the trails illegally, seemed, to Davis, to purposely act in a hostile manner. One of the riders, rather than following standard trail etiquette, chose to engage his motorcycle in a loud and threatening manner.
State and Federal guidelines for trail etiquette both dictate that equestrian riders always have the right-of-way. Whether another trail user is hiking on foot, riding a bicycle or any type of motorized vehicle, the horse and rider should always be yielded to. At a minimum, motor vehicle riders should stop. To exercise further caution, disengaging their engines is recommended.
One of the motorcyclists did turn his bike off when first encountering Davis and Hunt. The other rider did not.
Davis watched as Hunt’s three-year-old gelding, Cash, who is not typically afraid of motor vehicles, became increasingly startled due to repeated and deliberate close-range revving of the motorcycle’s engine. The engine noise, coupled with the spinning of the bike’s rear tire causing gravel to fly up indiscriminately, was outside the young horse’s experience. Hunt attempted to calm him, to no avail.
The rider would simply not let up, said Hunt.
Davis recalled the moment when she realized that things were escalating out of control. She knew instinctively that if Hunt’s horse ran, the rider was going to give chase.
“I put the spurs to my old girl and she leaped and landed right next to his motorcycle,” said Davis. “I was trying to stop him.”
Davis remembered screaming at him repeatedly to stop as he continued to give his motorcycle gas, lunging forward on his bike in what appeared to be an attempt to knock her off of her mare. And by this time, Hunt’s young horse had bolted. The motorcycle rider saw this and immediately took off after her, directly on the heels of her frightened horse.
Davis started off after them, at which point the other motorcyclist restarted his engine and took off, joining in the chase.
“This was an incredibly malicious chase for more than half a mile,” said Davis. “They left her for dead.”
By the time Davis got to her friend, Hunt was lying in the middle of a logging road, and Cash was nowhere to be found. Davis had been following not only the motorcycle tire tracks, but also the hoof prints of Hunt’s horse which were very widespread, indicating that the horse had been running at top speed.
Upon locating Hunt, Davis could clearly see two sets of motorcycle tracks going around her friend. When she got to her friend’s side, she saw that she was unconscious, but her eyes were open.
Davis thought at first that she might be dead.
Hunt came to, but was disoriented. Davis called 911, cradling her friend’s head while attempting to explain their location to the dispatcher. She realized, as her hands came away covered in blood, that Hunt’s injuries were severe. Davis cautiously described the injuries to the dispatcher.
“I didn’t want to say ‘she’s bleeding profusely from the back of her head,’” said Davis. “You can talk people into shock.”
Hunt was taken to the emergency room at Valley General in Monroe and discharged later that evening. Her condition worsened, and Davis took her back to a different emergency room on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
“She was really scared. She was really dizzy, she was vomiting… She was vomiting a lot,” said Davis. “She couldn’t eat; she couldn’t drink.”
Recovery for Hunt has been gradual. She has recently been able to return to work on a limited basis, but missed over two weeks of wages due to her injuries. Math that she was formerly able to do in her head with ease now must be performed using a calculator.
“She can’t drive very far, her thinking skills aren’t the same,” said Davis. “She’s noticing a lot of the typical head injury issues and challenges that come with a traumatic brain injury.”
The fundraiser will feature a trail obstacle challenge in five different divisions; In-Hand, Youth 17 and Under, Novice, Open and Rugged Mountain Trail. The top six challengers in each division will be eligible for a Rosette ribbon. The ribbons were specially-made for the fundraiser.
In addition to a silent auction and raffle, there will also be various donated items available for immediate purchase. Not all items are equestrian themed; there should be something for everyone.
The fundraiser is not only intended for horseback riding enthusiasts.
“I really want the motorcycle community, the ORV community and the community at-large to know that everyone is welcome to come to this fundraiser,” said Davis.
Hunt is looking forward to getting back in the saddle, and is waiting for her physician to clear her for riding. She recommends that everyone wear a helmet regardless of how many years of riding experience they might have.
“Even with a helmet I would have suffered a concussion,” said Hunt. “But I probably would not have split my head open.”
Hunt is grateful for Davis, and grateful for the fact that Cash was found safe and unhurt. She is thankful for everyone who has been reaching out to her since the incident. She has been riding trails in the area for years and has never before been faced with a deliberate attempt to upset her and her horse.
“They could have left a young girl without a mother,” said Hunt.
Registration for the “Ride for Jackie” event should be completed in advance at: http://rideforjackie.eventbrite.com/. Preregistration for the event is preferred, but not an absolute requirement. Guests who decide to attend on the day of the event are more than welcome.
The cost for two course rides is $25, each additional ride is $5. Lunch can be purchased for $10. Preregistration will assist the event’s planners in determining food quantity. Donations can be made at the event or sent to Bonnie Davis, P. O. Box 1442, Monroe, WA 98272. Please make donations payable to Jackie Hunt.
To donate items to the event, please contact Bonnie Davis at (360) 362-9012. All items are welcome.
If anybody has any information that could help identify the motorcycle riders involved in the incident, please contact the Snohomish County Sheriff’s office at (425) 388-3845 and reference case number 13-15268.
The Sky River Equestrian Center is located at 15729 365th Ave. S.E. in Sultan.