Monday, November 7, 2011

I'll Miss You, Hickstead

Olympian Eric Lamaze and his horse Hickstead at a World Cup event in Verona, Italy, 11/6/2011.
(Bruno De Lorenzo, Fiercavalli Press Office)
 By Kitson

I'm trying hard to keep this from ruining my day, but it's not easy. I had to stop what I was doing this morning and digest the shocking news that the mighty show jumping Olympic champion Hickstead, who last year I watched win bronze at the World Equestrian Games Show Jumping finale, died suddenly yesterday during a competition in Verona, Italy. The announcer's words from that night in Lexington at the WEG stuck in my head as he exuberantly declared Hickstead to be the best horse in the world.
For sure, he was one of them. Check out his Facebook page for some nice photos and videos.

That night, Hickstead and three other horses had made it to the final four competition after competing in five grueling rounds that had started earlier in the week with 121 horse and rider combinations. It was an exciting moment at the end, especially in contrast to the present moment, as I sit here at my desk, wiping away tears after watching the horrific last few moments of Hickstead’s life, on course, played out on YouTube.

Spending time at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington over the last ten years made me feel like I knew Hickstead a little. Over the years I always enjoyed watching the Nation’s Cups from the warm up ring, to get a little closer, hear the conversations going on between the Olympic riders and the trainers. Hickstead won many a Nation’s Cup for team Canada.

But in 2010 I got to know the stallion a little better while writing a story for Horse Illustrated (February 2011) about the different types of warmbloods competing at the WEG. Hickstead exemplified the best qualities of the KWPN Dutch Warmblood breed -- the fire that got him around complicated courses at top speed, the scope that got the relatively small horse over huge jumps with ease, his ground-swallowing stride, his big heart and the soundness that contributed to his long-term career.

The acronym KWPN stands for Koninklijk Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederland, which translated from Dutch means Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands. The breed has a rich history of powerful horses starting with Dutch farmers breeding for stamina and strength to pull heavy loads. In general, the KWPN horse is willing, fearless, physically and mentally strong, and bred to perform at the highest level. No doubt Hickstead was an amazing ambassador for his breed, a star performer and a cherished friend and teammate for his rider, Eric Lamaze and his support team, a group of people who devoted years of careful training and care of this incredible horse.

1 comment:

  1. Oh this is so sad...I can imagine you and your feelings for Windy coming thru. Do you know whate happened to him?