Monday, 7 November 2011

My heart broke today...

... when I learned of the sudden and very public death of Hickstead, beloved and very talented stallion of Canada's Eric Lamaze. Yesterday in Verona, Italy, while at a world cup jumping event, Hickstead collapsed in the show ring shortly after having completed a jumping round.

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.

R.I.P. Hickstead


  1. Was his name anything to do with "Hickstead Bank"?
    Yes, it's a very sudden way to go, but at least the animal is not languishing on drips, unable to do what it clearly loved.
    As to cruelty...some riders try to force their mounts to go higher, harder, faster, but the good rider "listens" to his horse and accepts the "faults" call on a refusal and he and his mount survive to try another day.
    Amazing animals! With just good feed, exercise and love they can be brilliant.
    Sad for Lamaze, though.

  2. Hickstead and Lamaze -- a team as important to those of us who follow the sport as Big Ben and Millar. Shocking and sad and yes -- the horses you see competing are the ones jumping logs in the field. Cruelty doesn't work on this level of performance -- just passion. :(

  3. That is an awful thing to happen and very upsetting for anyone who cares about horses. One can only hope he died doing what he loved and with no drawn out suffering.
    The cats may allow you to give them a cuddle in lieu of your horse.

  4. Dinahmow: I don't know if his name had anything to do with Hickstead Bank. Give a horse understanding and reasonable limitations, and it will give you everything it has if you've got a good relationship with it.

    Andrea: Yes, definitely up there with Ian and Big Ben... and yes, it is passion from both the horse and the rider that make for such memorable and successful pairings.

    Pat: The horse had just finished jumping a clear round in the show ring, so he was doing what he loved. And it was very quick... mere minutes from the time he went down to when he was gone, poor boy. His suffering was mercifully short.

    Pips has been getting lots of scratches and rubs and Lila has been suffering through the same, although she does tend to run off after a minute or so.

  5. Dinah: He was named for the site/showground. All related of course!

  6. I know little about horses, but I do know the kinds of bonds that develop between humans and animals.

    And thank you for not posting the video. What do we gain by viewing the death of an animal or the heartbreak of his handler?


  7. I once attended an Olympic Festival (off-year training) jumping event. It is truly amazing to see the teamwork and skill the horse and rider have at that level.

  8. A hell of a thing for the audience to see.

    Can humans ever really know what a horse wants or doesn't want? Do we ascribe human desires to animals as a balm to ourselves?

  9. Andrea: Thanks, I didn't know that, but didn't go looking to find out either. ;-)

    Pearl: The bond can be very strong. There's nothing like coming up to the pasture your horse is in, and he trots to the gate, knickering at you and trying to stick his head in his halter before you've even got it ready. I've had that. And yes, it is amazing!

    Von LX: I've been to a few jumping derbies and other events. I love that kind of stuff!

    UB: Some people will ascribe human values to any animal in their life. But if you understand how horses act and react, you can keep their minds and bodies sharp with a variety of activities.

    And just for the record, if a horse really doesn't want to do something, there is no way a puny human can make him. I've been on a horse, galloping across a field, trying to turn him. He kept running with his head bent way over to the side. His attitude was "hell no!" and I was not impressed. I paid for a nice trail ride... I got Mr. Attitude from Hell horse. ;-)

  10. That is sad.

    People who don't appreciate animals can laugh all they want at those of us who feel the twinge of loss. My dog (and his dearly departed Dad) are smarter than half the people I work with!


So you have something to say about all this, do you?
Well, let's hear it, then!