Local News

May 30, 2012

Olympic hopeful’s horses killed in wreck

A Dalton man who has been training in hopes of making the U.S. Olympic Eventing equestrian team said he was “in a tailspin” after three horses he has been working with died from a Friday morning wreck in Spring Place.

Two of the horses belonged to equestrian competitor Michael Pollard, who was part of a five-member U.S. equestrian team that claimed gold in the Pan American Games in October 2011 in Mexico. The other horse belonged to Michael and John Bryant, according to Horse and Hound magazine, based in England (www.horseandhound.co.uk/competitionnews/391/312763.html).

“It pretty much threw my life into a tailspin, I’m trying really hard to try to find a positive way to turn this around,” Pollard said on Tuesday. “The horse that I was going to be with at the Olympics and was going to be taking to London, I had to put him down on Sunday. Jude’s Law was second in the national championships two weeks ago. My first big international horse, Icarus, I’d also applied for the Olympics, died the day after the accident.”

And Pollard said the “most valuable of the horses” which had the most promise, a stallion named VDL Ulando H, died at the scene of the wreck. The horse won his first international competition in the spring, Pollard said.

The two-vehicle wreck on Highway 225 in Murray County happened just before 7 a.m., according to the Georgia State Patrol. No people were injured, said investigating Trooper 1st Class Nathan Roberts of the Calhoun post.

Norberto Huerta Hernandez, 29, of 1178 Highway 225, Lot 167, in Chatsworth, was charged with failure to yield, driving while unlicensed or on an expired license and obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers. He was driving a 1994 Buick Regal Custom registered to another person.

The driver of the 2006 Freightliner M2 106 Medium truck pulling the horse trailer was Natalie Hummel, 22, of Shelbyville, Ky. She was charged with driving while her license was suspended or revoked. The truck belongs to Centaur Equestrian, according to the GSP report.

“(Hernandez) was (in the) vehicle pulling off of Spring Place Drive, (and he) pulled in front of the vehicle that was traveling northbound with the horses,” said Roberts. “(Hummel) tried to avoid it, (she) turned to the left (and) overcorrected (and) still struck the vehicle in the middle of the intersection there and just laid it over on its left side in the left ditch.”

Roberts said a veterinarian was called.

“Some of the horses were taken back to the farm,” he said. “There was only one that died at the scene.”

Pollard said he had been “lucky this year.”

“I had four horses of top international quality,” he said. “Now I’ve lost three of them ... I worked these horses on a daily basis, they’re family members ... I lost all my competitive dreams in two days.”

He said the horses have medical exams every six weeks to four months and were being taken to Kentucky to get their physicals.

“When you think that they’re going to be OK, with all the stuff we’d already been through, and you’re holding on to that one hope that you’ll still be able to go to the Olympics, and your top horse is probably going to make it — and you have that taken away, it’s just brutal,” he said. “I had a really good chance of going (to the Olympics).”

But Pollard said he is thankful neither driver was injured and that the emergency call to him while he was out of town did not involve one of his four small children.

Horse and Hound reported six horses were in the trailer when the wreck occurred.

Roberts said the wreck caused the southbound lane of 225 to be shut down for awhile to work the collision. Hernandez was arrested and taken to the Murray County jail. He paid a $1,051 cash bond later on Friday and was released, according to a Murray County jail spokeswoman.

Alcohol and drug testing was not conducted on either driver, according to the report. Phone numbers for Hernandez and Hummel could not be found.

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