Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

From Coma to Victory; Horse Accident Can't Stop Rider

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

From Coma to Victory; Horse Accident Can't Stop Rider

Article excerpt

Byline: Tim Gilmore, River City News correspondent

When 67-year-old Jewel Griffin's horse ran directly into a tree in January, putting her into a coma, no one knew if the Westside resident would survive.

But less than a year later, the owner of Diamond D Training and Boarding Stable in southwest Jacksonville has won a 100-mile trail riding competition.

Griffin placed first in the Western North Carolina One Hundred Mile Competitive Trail Ride near Asheville, N.C., Oct. 19. While she has competed in the event for 20 years, this was the first time she has taken first place.

What makes the victory sweetest of all, however, is that it's the culmination of a major comeback from a near-death experience.

On Jan. 19, Griffin was out training her new horse, which now competes under the name The Living Proof, but which Griffin affectionately calls Chance. The events of that day have given both names poignancy.

"It was the very first day I'd taken this horse into the woods," Griffin said. "After having gone about seven miles, something spooked him, and he bolted. He ran straight into a tree."

Laura Van Slyke, one of two friends accompanying Griffin that day, said it wasn't known what startled the horse.

"He was new. He was green. Whatever it was that startled him, the other horses didn't bolt. Then all we saw was the horse running past with Jewel yelling, 'Woah!' " Van Slyke said.

Griffin hit the tree face first, breaking her right cheekbone and jaw, knocking out several teeth, fracturing vertebrae and causing nerve damage.

"If she hadn't been wearing a helmet, she probably would've died," Van Slyke said.

The riders were too deep into the woods for rescue personnel to reach them. Griffin's husband was contacted and he brought her out of the woods by horse to the EMTs. …

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