Musings around the loss of Hickstead

Top of mind for many equestrians this past week has been the tragic loss of one of Canada’s, and the world’s, top equine athletes — 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion, Hickstead.

In partnership with Canadian show jumping sensation, Eric Lamaze, Hickstead was at the top of his game and competing in Verona, Italy when he collapsed in the wake of an aortic rupture. He was a fit and able athlete. According to reports there had been no indication during myriad vet checks administered on a regular basis that such a catastrophic event was pending. And, as death is wont to do, it pounced in the blink of an eye with no regard to environment or circumstances — in this case in a public arena in front of thousands of fans.

Some people might wonder: “It’s just a horse … what’s the big deal?”

The connection between a horse and his rider, such as the one experienced by Hickstead and Lamaze, is a special one akin to any relationship where trust is the primary ingredient. Seventy-two hours following his horse’s death Lamaze, back in Toronto to compete at the Royal Winter Fair and accompanied by his lawyer and friend, Tim Danson, donned a brave face and spoke about the incident at a press conference. Without a prepared statement he simply spoke from his heart, answering reporters’ inquiries with dignity and grace. He responded openly; his emotions close to the surface and barely reined in. His distress was evident.

In one of his first statements he noted how Hickstead was like a member of the family.

As a horse mom, I understand this sentiment.

Bear and I have shared our lives for the past five and a half years. As we have journeyed he, as only horses can, has forced me to look in the proverbial mirror and make changes to my life so together we can grow to our potential. Every aspect of my life — mind, body and spirit — has undergone a transformation. His influence, just like the influence of anyone with whom I share a positive connection, has made me a better, stronger, happier person and brought unfathomable joy to my life. I believe it would be safe to say that HIckstead, in his own way, did the same for Lamaze.

At the conference Eric was not lamenting the potential millions of dollars lost from the horse’s future competitions or breeding schedule, nor was he hung up on missing the 2012 London Olympics which he had hoped to attend with Hickstead. No, it seemed to me that the horse himself and all that he represented in the transformation of Eric’s own life and career during the past eight years was stirring him the most. And this, in my opinion, is Hickstead’s greatest legacy.

My condolences to Hickstead’s family and friends at this sad time.

Nurture what you love.

Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2011

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