Olympic champ Lamaze's horse dies during event
Published Sunday, November 6, 2011 9:56PM EST
A champion horse that Canadian Eric Lamaze rode to two medals at the Beijing Olympics collapsed and died in front of horrified onlookers at a World Cup event in Italy on Sunday.
Hickstead died shortly after he and Lamaze completed the 13-fence track at the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping event in Verona. The arena was packed with spectators when the horse collapsed in the ring and thrashed around for a few moments.
Veterinarians tried unsuccessfully to revive Hickstead. He was 15.
Lamaze said afterward that he was "devastated."
"We finished our round, I circled and was leaving the ring, and he collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack," Lamaze said. "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."
Lamaze's fellow riders opted not to continue with the competition.
John Roche, director of jumping at the Federation Equestre Internationale, said the cause of death has not been confirmed.
"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," Roche said in a statement. "Hickstead's presence on the circuit will be very sadly missed."
A tribute to the horse -- a photo of Lamaze and Hickstead in mid-jump next to the words "Hickstead 1996-2011" -- appeared on the FEI's website Sunday evening.
Lamaze and Hickstead won an individual gold and a team silver together at the 2008 Beijing Games. They also won team silver and individual bronze at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio.
In September, they captured the title at the $1-million CN International Masters Tournament at Spruce Meadows.
"When you're riding the best horse in the world, it makes a big difference," Lamaze said after the Spruce Meadows win.
As of Oct. 31, the pair was first in the FEI's jumping rankings with 3,426 points.
Hickstead won more than $3 million over his career.
Lamaze began riding Hickstead, who was owned by Lamaze's Torrey Pines Stables and Ashland Stables, when the horse was seven.
Akaash Maharaj, chief executive officer of Equine Canada, hailed the "extraordinary partnership" that was Lamaze and Hickstead.
"Hickstead was without question the most dominant show jumping horse on the planet," Maharaj said. "Absolutely without question."
FEI president Princess Haya called Hickstead "a horse in a million."
"This is a terrible loss, but Hickstead truly will never be forgotten," she said in a statement. "We were very lucky to have known him."
With files from The Canadian Press