The shooting at a riding stable in New Jersey, and the arrest of an Olympics trainer, stunned the rarefied world of dressage.
“I’m being bullied by a 6’3” man,” a New Jersey woman wrote on Facebook last week.
“Bullied to the point I’m afraid.”
It was apparently not her only warning. Lauren Kanarek, a dressage rider, said on Facebook that she had gone to the police and tried to report a well-known dressage trainer to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit organisation which investigates various forms of misconduct in Olympic sports, and to the U.S. Equestrian Federation.
“It’s very complicated,” she wrote. “I’m not sure of what I can say here, but it seems as if SafeSport was created for exactly this reason.”
Five days after posting that message, Kanarek was shot several times Wednesday at a riding stable in Long Valley, New Jersey, a rural town about 50 miles west of New York City. She was taken for emergency surgery at Morristown Medical Center, in Morristown, according to the mayor of Long Valley, Matthew Murello. Her condition was not made public.
The police arrested Michael Barisone, 54, the Olympic dressage riding coach and owner of the farm. He was charged Thursday with two counts of attempted murder.
The attack rattled the rarefied world of elite dressage — a balletic Olympic sport where horses perform exacting movements — and comes at a turbulent time in equestrian sport, which has been rocked by investigations into its top athletes for sexual misconduct.
Dressage riders and fans examined Kanarek’s Facebook posts, where she continually wrote about a long-running feud with a man she did not name but said she feared.
Police did not release the name of the victim, but Rosanna Williams, a dressage rider, said that she had Kanarek’s father’s permission to confirm that Kanarek had been shot.
Kanarek, in her late 30s, was a promising newcomer in dressage. She had moved from out of state to train with Barisone, a dressage celebrity who once appeared on "The Colbert Report” and was a coach of the U.S. Three-Day-Eventing team in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Next week, Williams said, her friend was supposed to make her debut in internationally-ranked competition.
“She was extremely dedicated,” Williams said. “She basically gave up her entire existence, relocated, to train with somebody who was going to give her the best shot to accomplish her goals.”
Kanarek had confided in Williams about her ongoing dispute with Barisone, with whom she had trained for the past two years. Williams declined to elaborate on the details. It concerned multiple factors, according to Murello and Kanarek’s Facebook posts: There were differing opinions on the training and care of Kanarek’s horses, as well as a landlord-tenant dispute; Kanarek and her fiancé lived part time at the facility, called Hawthorn Hill.
“I’m a little shocked, as much as this was heating up and escalating, I don’t think anybody really saw this coming,” Williams said. “Obviously, I’m really worried about her, and hoping very much that she continues to pull through.”
The shooting occurred at 2:15 p.m. at the farm, at 411 W. Mill Road. Police responding to a 911 call found the victim with multiple gunshot wounds, according to information provided by the Morris County prosecutor’s office. An officer who responded to the incident was slightly injured, said Murello, the mayor of Long Valley.
“It’s certainly scary,” the mayor said, adding nothing like the Aug. 7 shooting had occurred in the community for 15 years or more. “We’ve had shootings where it was a suicide, or an accidental discharge — we are a farming town, so we do have guns — but to have an event like this with one person shooting another, it’s something that hasn’t happened,” he said.
As Kanarek’s posts on Facebook became increasingly dire in recent days — she spoke of her fear of “being whacked” and needing to get a gun for self-defence — friends urged her in comments to move off the farm. Kanarek responded that she was planning to, but was afraid to leave her horses behind. “Harm will come to me before I ever let harm come to them,” she wrote.
She also seemed reassured that by making her concerns public, she would gain some measure of protection. “I also feel that saying certain things to a public audience in someway helps keep me safe,” she wrote.
Bill Moroney, chief executive officer of the U.S. Equestrian Federation, said Friday that the federation was aware of the charges and would “cooperate with any investigation related to this matter.” Dan Hill, a spokesman for SafeSport, said he could not confirm whether any report had been filed. “The center doesn’t comment on matters, including revealing the names of individuals who report, consistent with statute and best practices,” he said.
People who know Barisone said they were stunned to hear of his arrest. “It’s surprising news and totally unexpected,” Stephan Hienzsch, executive director of the U.S. Dressage Federation, said in an interview. “I am kind of reeling a little bit from learning that he is supposedly the shooter.”
As news spread Thursday that Kanarek had been shot, social media users revisited her public postings. Some offered prayers; others expressed agony that the shooting had not been averted, despite how aware she was of the danger that faced her.
“Lauren, as I read over all these statuses, comments and replies, my heart is breaking for you,” a commenter named Pal Lineberry Ingold wrote. “You and others saw the writing on the wall but did anyone expect it to come to this?”
By Sarah Maslin Nir © 2019 The New York Times