A charitable showjumping competition in Michigan in the US has raised $5000 for the Kevin Babington Family Trust, to aid the Irish rider injured in a competition accident a year ago.
The Silver Oak Jumper Tournament in Traverse City hosted the Kevin Babington Benefit Classic, and it was won by fellow Irishman Patrick McNamara riding Billy Onslow. All of the $5000 purse was donated to the trust set up to support Babington and his family with the high costs associated with his ongoing rehabilitation.
Babington, an Olympic veteran and team gold medalist from the 2001 European Championships, suffered a life-altering injury at the 2019 Hampton Classic. More than $1 million has been raised in the year since to support Babington. Jeff Papows, Founder of the Silver Oak Jumper Tournament, has been a key contributor, setting up the “I Ride for Kevin” program, in which exhibitors can donate a percentage of their prize money to the cause at various competitions around the country.
“Because Kevin is so beloved [in the industry], every time I’ve raised my hand to do anything in his name, people sort of rush to help,” Papows said.
“We wanted to do this, not just for the continued sort-of financial reasons, but [also because] Kevin is still very invested in the sport, as is the whole family. That was the point of the class. Kevin taped an introduction for the class, and I think it’s a little bit of a morale boost for Kevin while he’s working so hard with his recovery.”
Papows partnered with Javan Dalman’s Dalman Jump Co. to create a special jump to commemorate the class. The result was a stunning wall depicting a vibrant mural of a castle near Babington’s hometown in Ireland, Rock of Cashel. A large group of generous supporters commissioned the fence, which was the final jump of both rounds of the 1.25m jump-off competition.
“We wanted something very unique, different, and Irish. We didn’t want another shamrock and Irish flag jump — there have been a lot of them done in Kevin’s name,” Papows said.
“Javan was talking to some Irish lads at a horse show, and someone spoke up about a castle not too far from Kevin’s [childhood] home. The jump is memorable and stands out. We’ll get a lot of use out of it!”
The Kevin Babington Benefit Classic featured 22 horse and rider combinations, all of which sported a green lapel pin to commemorate Babington. The field included international stalwarts Shane Sweetnam (IRL), David Blake (IRL), Alison Robitaille (USA) and Vasco Flores (PUR), along with Babington’s daughter Gwyneth and wife Dianna.
“It was important for us to show everyone that we’re here, and we appreciate [all the support],” Dianna said.
Ultimately, McNamara and Phoebe Backman’s Billy Onslow came away with a most memorable win. Jumping halfway through the class, McNamara and the 14-year-old chestnut gelding took nearly two seconds off the leading time and held on through the remainder of the competition.
“It was great to be involved in such a great cause for Kevin,” McNamara said. “I’m so happy that this class was in aid of him. Thankfully enough, it worked out — it was an Irish win!”