One of the most decorated and experienced riders on the Grand Prix equestrian circuit suffered a serious fall at the Hampton Classic in Bridgehampton on Friday, and was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital.
Irish rider Kevin Babington, 52, was competing in the $75,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier in the Grand Prix ring at the horse show on Friday afternoon aboard his horse, Shorapur, the talented mare he rode to victory in the Hampton Classic Grand Prix in 2014. Mr. Babington and Shorapur encountered trouble at the final element in a three-jump combination, crashing through that jump, which sent Mr. Babington falling forward off his horse.
Details about his exact condition were not available, but his wife, Dianna Babington, shared in a Facebook post — which was broadcast to the crowd on hand before the start of Sunday’s Grand Prix — that her husband had suffered a neck injury involving spinal cord damage, and had been transferred to NYU Langone Hospital in New York City.
“I want to reach out and thank everyone who has called, texted, messaged and simply shown up,” the message said. “I feel I must give an update because I have so many messages I cannot respond to at this time. I know our friends are genuinely concerned. Kevin does have a spinal cord injury in his neck, and we have transferred to NYU and I am doing my best to surround myself with knowledgeable people to help me navigate what medical procedures are best.
“Kevin is such a humble and private person I don’t want to post about the details but know I remain optimistic as we receive info from doctors,” she continued. “It is too early at this time to know anything for certain. Please know that at my lowest moments the messages of love and support are carrying me through this. Thank you and please keep visualizing Kevin as you always knew him. I believe in positive energy.”
On Monday, Hampton Classic Executive Director Shanette Barth-Cohen said that Mr. Babington was on the minds of everyone at the show and in the larger horse showing community.
“Kevin is one of the most beloved riders on our horse show circuit, and we are all pulling for him,” she said. “We remain hopeful for a complete recovery.
“I do want to commend the first responders on the scene,” she added. “They reacted quickly and handled the situation professionally.”
Mr. Babington is an accomplished equestrian with decades of experience as a professional show jumper. He owns and operates Kevin Babington LLC, a boarding, sales and training facility in Gwynedd, Pennsylvania, where he rides and trains horses and clients along with his wife, who is also an accomplished rider and trainer.
Mr. Babington, the youngest of 11 children, began riding at the age of 11, in his native Tipperary, Ireland, where he was recognized as a natural talent early on by his trainers. He continued to excel in shows in Ireland and came to the United States in 1987, where he eventually began to ride and train with legendary trainers Frank and Mary Chapot.
By the early 1990s, Mr. Babington and his wife, whom he had met while riding with the Chapot family, had opened their own barn in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Babington rode to great success with a horse named Carling King starting in 2000, and by 2004, he was representing Ireland as part of its Olympic show jumping team.
Staff writer Greg Wehner contributed to this story.