Hickstead, the superstar show jumper ridden by Eric Lamaze to individual gold and team silver at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, collapsed in the ring and passed away while competing at the Verona CSI in Italy today, Nov. 6.
Hickstead amassed a tremendous record in his years with Lamaze, including individual bronze at the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games, where Hickstead was named Best Horse after his performances in the Final Four. Hickstead also won the prestigious grand prixs of Aachen, Rome and La Baule, and twice won the CN Spruce Meadows Masters.
Hickstead and Lamaze had just completed their first round in the Rolex Grand Prix of Verona CSI-W when Hickstead collapsed while walking out of the ring. Veterinarians attended him immediately, but Hickstead died within minutes. A necropsy is planned in coming days to determine cause of death.
"We finished our round, I circled and was leaving the ring, and he collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack,” said an emotional Lamaze. “It is the most tragic thing that has ever happened. We had him until he was 15, and we had a great time together. He was the best horse in the world. We are all devastated.”
The remainder of the riders declined to continue jumping as a tribute to the great horse. Click here to see a video of them gathered in the ring on foot to observe a moment of silence.
A statement from the Federation Equestre Internationale reads: "The fourth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2011/2012 series at Verona, Italy, was stopped today following the sudden death of the stallion Hickstead, ridden by reigning Olympic champion and world number one Eric Lamaze (CAN).
"Drawn 22nd of the 39 on the startlist, the Canadian partnership had just completed Rolf Ludi’s 13-fence track with a single rail down in the middle of the combination when Hickstead collapsed and died.
"The competition was stopped at the request of the riders, and Lamaze’s fellow-competitors gathered in the Verona arena to pay their respects to one of the greatest horses of all time, and to support their colleague in his moment of loss with a minute's silence.
"HRH Princess Haya, FEI President added her condolences to those that have poured in since news of the horse's death. 'Hickstead really was a horse in a million and my heart goes out to Eric and everyone connected with this wonderful horse. This is a terrible loss, but Hickstead truly will never be forgotten. We were very lucky to have known him.'
"FEI Jumping Director, John Roche, said 'shortly after finishing his round of jumping Hickstead collapsed in the arena and died. As yet the cause of death is unknown, but our deepest sympathies go out to the owners, to Eric and to all the connections of one of the greatest jumping horses of all time. Hickstead’s presence on the circuit will be very sadly missed.'"
Under Lamaze, Hickstead’s accomplishments in the sport of show jumping were incomparable. The pair’s last major victory came on Sept. 11 in front of 89,632 show jumping fans when they won the $1 million CN International for the second time in their career at the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament in Calgary, Alberta.
Lamaze had ridden Hickstead, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion owned by John Fleischhacker’s Ashland Stables and Lamaze’s Torrey Pines Stable, since the horse was 7. Hickstead earned more than $3 million in prize money during his career and was widely acknowledged as the best show jumping horse of his era.
Bred by Jan van Schijndel, Hickstead (Hamlet – Jomara x Ekstein) was born March 2, 1996, in the Netherlands. Lamaze purchased Hickstead in 2004.