Canada loses show jumping superstar
Canadian and world equestrian enthusiasts were left shocked and saddened this Sunday after the death of show jumper Eric Lamaze’s legendary stallion Hickstead. The champion horse died shortly after he and Lamaze completed a course at the Rolex FEI World Cup in Verona, Italy, in front of an arena packed with horrified onlookers.
Veterinarians tried unsuccessfully to revive Hickstead. While Lamaze has stated his teammate died of an apparent heart attack, the exact cause of death remains unknown until an autopsy has been completed.
Hickstead’s death tragically ended a partnership that helped push Canada to the top of show jumping, a sport usually dominated by Europeans and Americans. The superstar stallion, who has often been referred to as the “Michael Jordan of the Equestrian world”, had a legendary track record. Hickstead’s accomplishments include an Individual Gold and Team Silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, 1st place at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, USA, and winner of the $1 Million CN International at the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament in Calgary, Alberta. Together Hickstead and Lamaze have fetched over $3 million dollars in prize money. To say that Hickstead was one of Canada’s greatest athletes would be an understatement.
Lamaze, who is currently the number one rider in the world, is deeply saddened by his loss and mourning his long time teammate. The Montreal-born athlete had a special bond with Hickstead which he will likely never duplicate with a new mount. And with less than nine months before the London Games, many are wondering if Lamaze will be able to find one that is Olympic-calibre. Akaash Maharaj, the CEO of Equine Canada has stated, “It’s fair to say there certainly isn’t another Hickstead in the world, and that will be a misfortune for Eric.”
Hickstead is the horse which largely helped to redeem Lamaze as a rider. During team tryouts for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Lamaze tested positive for cocaine use, and was subsequently banned from competing for four years. (Later this suspension would be reduced to seven months). Lamaze earned a spot on Canada’s Equestrian Team again in 2000, but once again, tested positive for banned substances. The athlete spent the next six years rebuilding both his showjumping career and damaged reputation. When Lamaze met Hickstead, who was surprisingly turned down by the American showjumping team, it was a match made in heaven. Lamaze’s riding style, which is often described as fast and aggressive, was a perfect match for the bold, quick Hickstead. Together the team went on to be arguably the most dominant pair in the world of showjumping.
Thousands of fans are showing their support for Lamaze and paying tribute to Hickstead on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. In addition, many memorial videos are being uploaded to Youtube, which highlight Hickstead’s raw talent and the incredible bond between Lamaze and his mount. Equine Canada has a tribute page, in which Hickstead fans can both share sentiments and grieve his loss.
On the tribute page, one person eloquently wrote: “Once in a lifetime comes a really great team who absolutely inspires everyone around them – Eric, you and Hickstead were such a team and you thrilled us each and every time we saw you. Hickstead, you will always be loved and sadly missed.” While Hickstead will never truly be forgotten, fans can take pride in the fact that thanks to him and Lamaze, we all flew a little closer to the stars.