On March 31, Willpower collapsed and died at the Spring Horse Trials at the Ark in Monroe, N.C., at fence 18 on the training level course.
A necropsy revealed the 17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding suffered an aortic aneurism. Owner and rider Maggie Hitron was not injured in the fall.
“He put in one of his best dressage tests,” said Hitron, 23. The test put them in first place, and they followed that by a double-clear round in show jumping.
Hitron, Lexington, Ky., said “Will” was always great on cross-country, and Saturday was no different until after fence 17. She momentarily felt him become reluctant to turn, but he didn’t hesitate or balk going toward the jump. “He tried to jump it for me,” she said.
She purchased Will in 2009 and competed in their first preliminary level competition in August 2011 at the Penny Oaks Horse Trials (Ind.). Hitron said she was always impressed with how athletic and fit Will was for an older horse, and she worked hard to keep him that way with regular chiropractor and veterinary checkups.
“I can’t emphasize how special he was,” Hitron said. “He was a sweetheart, an absolute sweetheart.”