An East Islip High School graduate who captained the UConn equestrian team and was just starting her career rehabilitating horses was killed when her mount reared and fell back on her at a Hudson Valley farm, officials said.
Samantha Calzone, 23, was pronounced dead at the scene Monday on a family farm in Dover, Dutchess County. What caused the accident at about 10:45 a.m. is not known, State Police said in a statement.
“She was a really good kid,” said her mother, Ruthann Pritchard of Greenwich, Connecticut, by telephone. She added that the social media response from people in the places her daughter has been "confirms for me it’s not just me that thinks that.”
Calzone, who lived in Greenwich, graduated magna cum laude in May 2018 from the University of Connecticut, earning a bachelor's degree in animal science. She then received a master's in equine science at England's Hartpury University, her mother said. She had just started working at Takoda Farm in Dover, a breeding and rehabilitation farm.
The family lived on Long Island for about six years, starting in 2010, and it was while riding at a local equestrian center that Calzone revealed some of the leadership qualities, including levelheadedness, that would later elevate her to UConn’s team captain.
“They really looked to her like the barn mom,” her mother said.
Nor was her daughter one to abandon a horse after it could no longer do its job; instead, she regularly visited and cared for her mount after retiring it. “She was like ‘This is my baby, and I will always be there for her,’ ” Pritchard said.
Similarly, helping horses adjust — mentally and physically — after injury or trauma so that they could do another job was one of her passions.
The UConn Equestrian Team, on Facebook, said: "She served as a mentor and a true ray of sunshine to UCET and all people who were lucky enough to know her. Sam was a true horsewoman and loved our sport, and these animals, with her whole heart."
"It is devastating to lose such a promising and dynamic young woman, and the entire UConn community extends its deepest condolences to her family and friends," UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said in an email. "She made a strong and lasting impact through her leadership as captain of the UConn Equestrian Team; her impressive academic successes; and her Alternative Spring Break community service activities, in which she gave her time and energy to help people in need in Mississippi and Florida."
Calzone graduated from high school in 2014. She was one of several high schoolers honored for best project at the 2014 Long Island Youth Summit — she won for a photographic essay on the continued effects of superstorm Sandy.
Services will be Saturday from 3 to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Leo P. Gallagher Funeral Home, 2900 Summer St., Stamford, Connecticut.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to EQUUS Foundation, in memory of Samantha Calzone. A memorial award is being created in her honor, her mother said.