Movie stars don’t often find themselves stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of a November blizzard. But then, most movie stars don’t travel via gooseneck trailer, either.
Partridge and Dreamer were returning to their home in Pontypool, Ontario from New York City, where they were in town to promote their upcoming film. Along the way, they made a pitstop in New Jersey to pick up a yet-unnamed gray thoroughbred mare, one of Partridge’s prospects for the Thoroughbred Makeover competition next year. (Partridge placed first in two categories—trail and freestyle—with Trivia Time at this year’s competition, and won the overall America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred title in 2015 with Soar).
“So we had one, really well-trained horse and one barely trained horse,” says the founder of Harmony Horsemanship.
“On Sunday we decided to stay an extra day because we found out it was going to snow. But we looked at the weather [for Monday] and it just said cloudy. We didn’t head out until 11 in the morning because we didn’t think it was going to be bad.”
Unfortunately, Upstate New York, which lie directly in their path, was in the middle of its first real storm of the season. For more than two days, lake effect showers had been pummeling the region, dumping more than two feet of snow in some areas. Partridge’s co-pilot and 14-year-old riding student, Franny, posted a Facebook video to her page around 5 p.m., chronicling the worsening road conditions near the town of Tully, just south of Syracuse.
A few moments later, all hell broke loose.
Partridge’s truck was sideswiped by a passing semi, forcing her off the road. Though her truck mirror (which flips out for towing purposes) was the only thing hit, Partridge had had enough. Searching for a place to pull off the road, she posted this call for help on her Facebook page:
“After winning the Makeover two years in a row my Facebook following has grown a lot, and I love my followers because they’re very, very engaged,” Partridge explains, adding that she’s reached out to her network for advice and assistance in the past.
“As soon as I run into a problem I’m like, okay, throw it out to Facebook. Somebody will be able to help.”
In this case, the response was both instantaneous and impressive. The video received more than 370 shares and more than 200 comments from well-wishers volunteering to search out local stables and contacting their own horse friends in the area. One offered to bring hay for Partridge’s horses to munch on while they waited out the storm. Others offered their own nearby farms as sanctuary.
Pulling into the Preble rest station on Interstate 81, Partridge checked her horses—who, besides a minor bloody nose on her gray mare, were uninjured—and began to wade through the scores of suggestions and offers for help that were pouring in. Inside the station, however, the television was broadcasting more bad news: a traffic accident just ahead of them on 81 had caused a massive pileup, closing down the road for the evening.
“The way it all happened was just sort of crazy. Had we not been scared off and pulled into that rest stop, we would have been right in the middle of it,” says Partridge. “I definitely have a guardian angel looking out for me.”
While her mother, Annette, who was also following the Facebook commentary, tried to locate an available hotel room in the area (two nearby properties were already at capacity due to the highway closure), Patridge made contact with Kayla Phillips, the barn manager at Lone Birch Stables, whose aunt had tagged her in the post.
As luck would have it, Lone Birch was located just a couple of miles down the road, and Phillips was ready and willing to help, immediately calling her boss, Joanne Jones, to get the okay to open up a few stalls for the night.
“It’s horses and I would never hesitate on rescuing any one with horses. As soon as I saw that they were in need and within distance of me, it was something that I felt that I could help with,” Phillips says, adding that her main concern was not heading out into a blizzard, but being able to connect with Partridge in time.
“I definitely was—I don’t know if I would say overwhelmed—but definitely a little frantic for them. I didn’t know if someone had told them to drive farther. From here to Syracuse is just worse on 81, with more hills and turns and everything.”
And there was real cause for concern. Phillips was waiting for Partridge at the next exit down the road, but their ability to reach one another was actually stalled by the constant pinging of concerned followers lighting up Partridge’s phone.
“I didn’t even have a chance to look through all the comments because so many people were private messaging and texting me,” notes Partridge. “[Kayla] had actually been waiting there at the gas station for at least a half hour before she could even get in touch with us because there was so much communication going back and forth.”
The two were finally able to connect, however, and Phillips helped to guide the trailer the five miles down the road to Loan Birch. When asked if she knew that she was actually saving the 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover winner and a bonified horse celebrity, Phillips just laughs. “I didn’t know who they were until [Lindsey] pulled in, and she was so grateful to see us, and she said, ‘You’re saving a movie star!’”
“You see something like this happening in another state and you think, Well, nothing like this is going to happen in my area. Until it actually does.”
Once the horses had been safely stowed away at Lone Birch, Partridge posted a second video with Kayla and Joanne Jones, letting her followers know she had arrived safely and was able to find a hotel room for the night. She also announced, in light of recent events, that she’d decided to call her new gray filly “Blizz”—short for blizzard, and also the Dairy Queen ice cream treat. (“Because she’s a sweet horse that wants to do well,” she explains.)
Partridge waited out the storm in New York another day, but plans to continue home to Ontario on Wednesday. When she leaves, she’ll take with her a renewed appreciation for the horse community, which despite its frequent and sometimes harsh divisiveness, hasn’t forgotten the most important lesson: how to pull together to help a member in need.
“There were so many people who are strangers to me but were saying things like, ‘Oh, if you’re stuck, you can come stay at my house,’ or, ‘I have a cow field, but you can come put your horses in it if you need a place to go.’ Just so many people trying to offer their support who were willing to open their homes and their farms, and also those pitching in to make those phone calls [on my behalf],” says Partridge.
“It kind of makes you think, you know, what would we have done if this was 5-10 years ago? I don’t know. Just tromp through the snow and knock on a neighbor’s door?” asks Partridge.
“We see a lot of negativity in the media and this, I think, is a really positive story. Facebook can be used for good and the horse community is so well connected and supportive. It’s just so refreshing.”