PLYMOUTH — Just seconds before a white quarter horse named Jack was hit and killed and another horse named Chaos was injured Tuesday night, the rider of Chaos was tossed to the ground, she said on Thursday.
Jennifer Smith, who was riding Jack, dismounted at about 8 p.m. to see if her friend and neighbor Judy Keyser was OK. At about the same time Smith’s husband, Matthew Smith, arrived with his truck, parked across the road, and turned on his vehicle’s flashers.
At that point, Phillip Hopkins, 31, of Plymouth, who was driving down the Ridge Road, apparently was caught in a bottleneck created by the horses and the truck, according to police, and struck both horses.
“Both front headlights hit Jack’s legs,” Smith said of the 14-year-old white quarter horse she owned for nearly two years and used to teach people to ride.
“He hit Jack first and then he hit Chaos,” said Keyser, who was still holding Chaos’ reins at the time. The impact of the car “tore my horse from my hands and there was nothing I could do,” the longtime rider said.
“Both of the horses went up over the car and my horse, Chaos, went up over the top and landed on Jack,” Keyser said.
Chaos then took off running even though he suffered front knee and back leg injuries. Jack never recovered from his injuries and died on the side of the road about half a mile from his home.
Penobscot County Sheriff’s Deputy Noel Santiago, who investigated the collision, said Thursday that he didn’t believe alcohol or speed were factors in the deadly collision and he did not expect any charges would be filed. The speed limit in the area is 45 miles per hour.
The impact caused glass to fly into the car and injure the driver and his 21-year-old female passenger. She was taken to the hospital for a puncture wound and Hopkins were treated at the scene.
The impact was severe enough that “the saddle was embedded in the vehicle’s windshield,” Keyser said. “They had to use a pry bar to get it out of the windshield.”
The two riders say there are bright yellow “Caution Horse” signs on Ridge Road because there are so many horses living on the roughly 4-mile-long route.
“There are 23 horses living on this road,” Keyser said.
She added that many drivers use the road as a shortcut to travel between Newport and Plymouth and that many go faster than the 45 mph speed limit.
Besides wanting to alert drivers to be more cautious because of all the horses in the area, Keyser said the two women expected to contact town officials about trying to lower the speed limit.
“There are so many of us riding down here,” Keyser said. “In our eyes, they’re not just a horse. They’re part of the family.”