We would like to thank everyone for all the videos, comments and love so many people have shown for Jessica. We love watching all of them and reading the comments about how much Jess means to everyone. We would like to share a little about her with you:
Jessica was a very special girl, we knew at an early age that she had a special bond with all animals, we swore she could talk to them and they would really listen. When she was 6 years old we were at her sister’s soccer tournament and Jessica ended up with someone’s dog and was teaching it tricks, the owner of the dog noticed them and came over and said she couldn't believe what Jessica was doing because her dog didn't like people and that she couldn't get the dog to do anything. Another time, our family was snorkeling in Hawaii in about 100 ft of water when a sea tortoise came up to Jessica from below and let her pet him on the nose then he went back down, not letting anyone else touch him. There are many stories, Jessica knew almost every dog in the neighborhood and people often requested her to walk/play with their dogs, especially the older or sick ones that needed extra care.
Jessica has an older half-sister Jenee' 19 and an older brother Justin 16. Her pets are Jewels, Foxy (the dogs), Pretty Boy (the bird) and of course Boomer. All of her pets could do tricks…the bird was a recent Christmas present, so it was just a matter of time before he would have been talking to her, I’m sure. He still will not let any of us pick him up or touch him. Jessica also enjoyed boating, riding the wave runner, tubing, snow boarding, swimming, and even riding dirt bikes (she tied a chain to the handle bars for reins and tried to ride it like a horse when she was younger!). Jessica also took dance, gymnastics and was a cheerleader for a year. No matter what Jessica did she made it fun for herself and everyone around her. She was also the favorite neighborhood babysitter, as the kids always had a great time!
Jessica started riding horses when she was about 10 yrs old, trail rides at Gibson Ranch, on vacation, summer horse camp and at friends. She was pretty much hooked from then on!!! She began taking lessons January 2004 and took lessons at two other ranches before she started riding at Shandoni Ranch owned by Jenee’s Grandmother in August 2005. There she rode under MAW training stables and moved with MAW August, 2007 to another ranch location. After about six months, January 2008, Jessica returned to Shandoni to work with Doreen, the owner (loved as a Grandmother), helping train the foals Doreen raises and helping ride her other horses. Doreen was giving Jess lessons and planned to attend shows with her in the upcoming show season. In addition, throughout all of her lessons, Jessica worked at MoonRock Ranch, a few blocks from our house, cleaning stalls to earn pony bucks to pay for riding at MoonRock with Brandi and all of her barn friends. There she enjoyed weekend barn sleepovers, trail rides at Folsom, but probably most of all just “horsing around” at the ranch with her friends!
Losing Jessica has been the most difficult thing we could ever imagine. Most days it is still hard to believe she is really gone. Her accident was shocking and February 6th is a day we try hard to not even think about. As a parent, the thing you do most is try to protect your children, and when something like this happens, well, it is very difficult to handle. Many stories have circulated among the people who loved, cared for, or barely knew Jessica, some of them based on part of the facts, some based on less than that. Those closest to us have seen the pictures and videos taken that day and have respected our wishes to not spread stories on-line, so most of what is out there is not true. The time has come for us to tell you what we know. While we don’t know exactly what happened to Jessica, we do know more of the facts than anyone else telling the story. So here we go:
February 6, 2008: Jessica had a minimum day at school and got out at 12:15 because of back to school night. She wanted to go spend time with Boomer, so Craig took her to Shandoni at about 2:00. She had emailed Jay (he is Doreen’s husband who loved Jessica, she thought of him like a grandfather and good friend) the night before to see if she could come, he said “sure,” that he would be home. When they arrived Jay was trimming trees and doing work outside around the ranch. Craig told her to call him when she was about done and he would pick her up. After about 2 ½ hrs, Craig hadn’t heard from her (not unusual, since she could spend hour upon hour playing with her beloved Boomer) so he left to go pick her up. He called her a couple of times to let her know he was on his way, but she did not answer. He got to Shandoni at about 5:10 and Jay was outside mowing the lawns. Craig asked where Jessica was and Jay said he thought she was out taking pictures of the horses because he thought he saw Boomer already put away in the pasture. Craig called out for her, but she did not answer so he went to the tack room and found it was still open, so he knew she hadn’t put Boomer away. He then went to look for her and found her lying outside the arena, she was already gone. Boomer was not with her, the saddle was hanging on the fence, and he was later found outside his pasture about 300 yards from Jessica, wearing his bridle and dragging the broken reins.
Always documenting her life, Jessica did take 40 pictures and 6 videos that day, which have helped us figure out what could have happened. The videos depict a completely ordinary day, fields were being mowed on the property, horses were running in the adjacent pasture and crop dusters were flying. They had a fun afternoon, first jumping small jumps in the front arena, then playing in a partially flooded back arena, where Jess videoed Boomer free lunging, splashing through the water, galloping along the fence with stirrups flying, and racing horses in a nearby pasture, full of energy. In one of the videos Jessica recorded, Boomer was galloping along the fence line with/watching five horses running in the adjacent pasture. He ran into the arena corner very aggressively and stopped, then ran away from the corner and turned around and ran back into the corner again and stopped. He kept this up hitting the fence making it shake. We think Boomer wanted to go run with the other horses. This is only important because this is where the accident occurred. In the next clip, which happens to be Jessica’s 2nd to last video, she was jumping Boomer bareback, over a branch she propped on the fence. It was not more than 3’ high at any point, about 12 feet long, not very wide in the middle, a bit wider on the far end where the leaves were. Her first attempt was at the canter, he refused by shouldering out to the left and after a minute off-screen, they re-approached the branch, this time at a trot, and he popped over calmly and beautifully. Her next couples of attempts were very nice canters over the branch back and forth. The last video on her camera shows Jessica and Boomer walking away from the camera, moving the end of the branch up to the top rung of the arena fence, making the middle of the branch somewhat higher, maybe 3’ 6” or so. There is nothing after that, her battery probably ran out, so this is where we are left to sort out the details we know, and those we don’t know.
This is where all the speculation starts… if she jumped the branch again safely she would have came back to the camera and noticed that it had stopped and she would have put new batteries in it (she always had extra charged batteries with her)
Jessica was found lying about 4 ft outside of the arena fence. It is clear that they flipped over the fence and Boomer landed on her, (barely catching the top of her helmet as her face and rest of her body appeared unharmed) crushing her skull and breaking her neck. What we believe happened, based on all the evidence we have and on past history, is that Boomer became frightened or bolted after one of her jumps (something Jessica herself talks about in one of her YouTube videos “Why I don’t release more” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zFxvnM4sHg where she shows that occasionally Boomer would bolt/run out after a jump), and in the struggle to stop, they flipped over the fence. She had been taught, as many jumpers are, to use the arena fence to slow and eventually stop him. It is clear from that video that it was a pretty dangerous situation. It is pretty easy to see that a situation like this could lead to the accident: Boomer not being able or willing to stop and in the struggle they flip over the fence Her being bareback and not having the leverage or security of the saddle to control him as precisely while he is panicking. For those who have heard or told the stories about her possibly attempting to jump the arena fence, this is not a possible scenario. In addition to the evidence above, Jess had bruises on both hands that indicate that she was pulling very hard on the reins for a time – not something that would be seen if she was attempting to jump a huge fence. She landed quite close to the fence – whereas a failed jump attempt would very likely have propelled her body much further away from it. Finally, when you add in the things we know about our daughter, the jump doesn’t make sense. We know she was very smart. While she may also have been absolutely fearless as many young people are, she was careful and methodical in her jumping advancement as can be seen from the videos from that very day. It is inconceivable to us that she would go from jumping 4’ as her highest in a saddle and suddenly decide to jump more than 4’ 6” bareback, with not enough distance to land on the other side, and the very clear danger of a high solid fence. The direction they went over the fence there was a tree about 15ft in front of them and a wire fence about 3- 4ft behind the tree. Let’s not forget, her camera was not facing the accident area. We all know that Jess loved to video everything, and she would have put those new batteries in and turned that camera for sure. We have no doubt in our minds that she never would have tried jumping an arena fence, putting herself and Boomer in danger. Anyone who thinks she would doesn’t know Jessica! We know in our hearts that Boomer didn’t mean to hurt her, but we have also come to realize that this bolting problem was a bigger problem than we knew. Even as he’s being ridden now, without any jumping, it is a behavior that he sometimes falls into, and we are working to retrain him from it.
There was no one in the arena to see what happened, however, she was not at the ranch alone, she has never been at any ranch riding alone. Jay saw her riding throughout the few hours she was there and talked to her, they were going to go inside and put the videos on the computer as soon as he got done mowing the lawns. We do know the accident happened sometime after 4:15 because her last text message was at 4:15. We don’t believe that if anyone would have been standing right there, that the outcome would be any different. We have come to realize that once things are in motion, there is often no stopping Boomer or any other horse for that matter. Here is an example on Jess’ Jumper/Boomer MySpace “My Standard Dismount” (http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=8583070) where it shows people in the arena with her when Boomer refused a jump and everyone was helpless, all they could do was watch. We have had to learn the hard way how much of a “mind of their own” horses have and how helpless a rider can be, even one as talented as Jessica.
Of course this has been the worst tragedy we could ever imagine, we love and miss Jessica with all of our hearts, and we ache for her to be with us every day. But we want you all to know that we are happy that we gave Jessica her life with her horse Boomer. Sometimes we question that, of course we would trade anything to have her back. But we also know that if it truly was her time to go, we know she died doing what she loved more than anything in this world. She said that herself the day before the accident. It is very possible that if we’d not given her that life with Boomer and God was going to take her from us anyway, then we might be grieving an even more senseless loss, like losing her to a car accident or disease. We do find solace that she was so very happy and in love with Boomer, as her amazing smile shows in all of her photos.
Again, Thank You all for the outpouring of love and support you’ve all sent our way since Jessica was taken from us. You have no idea how touching it is to see a heartfelt tribute video (there are so many) or comment made by a far-off friend, who was touched by the amazing girl Jessica was. They are treasures we cherish every single day. We hope you find this information helpful and thank you for your understanding that we waited so long to share our story. The loss of our daughter is so immense that quite honestly it just took us this long to be able to face this part of the process. Please continue to share your love and support on Jessica’s Memorial Myspace or on her YouTube videos, as well as Boomer’s videos.
Craig & Angela Forsyth