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December 24, 2008

Dressage Superstar Graf George Dies

Olympic dressage horse Graf George was euthanized in his retirement home at Albert Court Ltd. in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., on Dec. 20 because of organ failure. He was 26.
   
Graf George had a long and illustrious career, which included two Olympic bronze medals with two different riders and top 10 placings at the Olympic Games, the World Equestrian Games and the FEI World Cup Final.

He was imported as a 3-year-old by Meg Hamilton of Hamilton Farms in Massachusetts. The gray Hanoverian (Graphit—Mongolin) competed in his first Olympic Games in 1992 as a 10-year-old with Michael Poulin.

He then was sold to George Lindemann Jr., but in 1995 Lindemann went to prison for insurance fraud, and “George” came up for sale again. Dick and Jane Brown bought him, and Guenter Seidel took over the ride. He went on to compete in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, where he placed eighth individually.

Graf George finished up his career with a ninth-placed finish at the 1998 WEG. Along the way he also won the 1993 and 1998 U.S. Dressage Federation Grand Prix Horse of the Year award and the national Grand Prix championships in the same years. In 1998 he was named the Chronicle's Horse of the Year, and a Breyer model was created in his honor. In 2000, Graf George was inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame.

“I have to thank him for my whole career,” said Seidel. “He taught me what riding was all about. You’re only as good as your horses, and he made me look great and made me a good rider.”

George was known for his wonderful piaffe and passage as well as his electric temperament. “My favorite thing about him was his eagerness to go,” said Seidel. “He was exuberant. He never had any hesitation about wanting to work. His willingness to do work was exceptional.”

Although George stopped doing dressage after he retired, he loved his turnout and continued his enthusiastic ways, bucking in the field and teaching his pasture mates manners.

“He was a horse that touched a lot of people,” said Seidel. “Everyone remembers him as a special horse.”