Today marks three months since I lost my best friend, coach, and mentor, Philippa Humpreys. This has a been a tough year for eventing, we have lost too many talented riders and horses. Some were up-and-coming, with a life of excitement and adventures ahead of them. Others were seasoned, reminding us of the inherent risk that accompanies this sport. All of them were accidents that resulted with a horse or rider paying the ultimate price. Many have called for change, I am one of them, though I don’t know what that change is. Today I remember my best friend. Today I remember the person who changed my life, picked up all the broken pieces, and is the reason I cry every day.
You either knew Philly or you didn’t. While that may sound like a simple and obvious statement, anyone who knew her is nodding and smiling. In almost every picture of her riding, she has a smile plastered across her face. The pictures didn’t do justice to the smile that was always on her face. She had a kind word for every person she met. She was outrageously outgoing, and quickly became a staple among Area 8 events. It was rare that a sale horse stayed in her barn for over a few months. She wasn’t a horse trader, she just developed a reputation for finding and producing impeccable horses.
When you watched Philly ride it was like magic. She was filled with grit and determination, but when she rode she made it seem effortless. Not in the ‘not trying’ type of effortless, but in the way that took your breath away and gave you a glimpse into the hours in the saddle that went into producing such talent. Her horses were always happy. When things were questionable, for whatever reason, the safety of her horses and herself was always of the utmost importance.
When Millie was born, it was clear that Philly was not just a talented rider and coach, she was a wonderful mother. Millie didn’t have the most conventional first few months, quickly being on the road to Aiken and becoming accustomed to life as an eventing baby. True to form, Philly just kept moving and Millie proved to be without a doubt Philly’s daughter by rolling with the punches and living happily on the eventing schedule, which is really no schedule at all. Philly’s love for Millie was tangible. When they returned home, everyone clamored (and still does) for time with the beautiful, perfect Millie.
Life will never be the same without Philly. She touched the lives of hundreds. I am just one of many who weep daily over her loss. I am one of many who stalks her Facebook and religiously checks Facebook’s “On This Day” for pictures, posts, and new memories of Philly. I crave hearing her say, “Well ridden,” or on a bad day, “Don’t be a fairy,” one more time as I ride around. I desperately want to ask her for advice for where to go next in my life. I want to drink margaritas, eat queso, play flip cup, and dance with my friend. I was only blessed enough to have two years with her, and it was not enough. Though I know 100 years would not have been enough time either.
Philly was one in a million. I know I will never meet another friend, coach, or mentor like her. There is no one in the world that can fill the hole in my heart she has left behind. While that thought makes me sad, it also puts me at ease and brings a smile to my face. How lucky I am to get to know such a wonderful woman. How lucky I am to have such a thoughtful and sincere friend. How lucky I am to have someone who believed in me, no matter how many times I fell on my face. How lucky I am lucky to have met someone who made saying good bye so unbearably hard.
I love you Philly, thank you for touching my life and helping shape me into the equestrian and woman I am today.