Eric and Hickstead took the individual gold medal for jumping at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. They won many competitions worldwide during their time together. Hickstead and Eric had become very well known across the world.
There have been many messages of condolences all over the internet, but there have also been comments from people who think it is cruel and abusive to jump a horse. If anyone has spent time watching horses in a large field with fallen logs, they will see that some horses love to jump. Even foals will jump... often over their own dams lying on the ground napping!
Some horses, just like human athletes, have a natural talent and desire to jump. Hickstead was one of those horses. His collapse and death, apparently from a heart attack although this remains to be verified by autopsy, was an extremely rare event in the equestrian world. Horses do get injured, yes, but often it is a torn ligament or pulled muscle and occasionally a broken bone, sometimes career-ending but not usually fatal.
Hickstead was only 15 years old and in his prime. He was extremely well cared for, as all top level equine athletes are (or else they would never be able to compete at that level), and had topnotch medical and nutritional support. He and Eric had an excellent rapport and anyone who ever watched them together could see that. Hickstead was a one in a million and his passing is mourned by many around the world.
There is video footage of his collapse and death on youtube but I'll not post it here. Just type in Hickstead in youtube if you want to watch it. It is heartwrenching, to say the last. They were just walking around the jumps when the stallion stumbled and slowly fell onto his hip and then his side. Eric was not injured but I am sure his heart is broken and his mind numb at this point. Such a terrible loss.
Makes me wish I still had my horse, so I could go give him a long hug in sympathy for Hickstead and Eric Lamaze.