Hickstead, the horse Eric Lamaze rode to win individual and team medals at the 2008 Olympics, collapsed and died as he was leaving the ring during a World Cup event in Italy.
Lamaze and Hickstead were competing in the Rolex FEI World Cup in Verona on November 6, when the 15-year-old Dutch warmblood stallion took a couple of unsteady steps and collapsed. Veterinarians attended the horse but he died within minutes.
“Shortly after finishing his round of jumping Hickstead collapsed in the arena and died," Federation Equestre Internationale jumping director, John Roche, said in a press release. "As yet the cause of death is unknown, but 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. Hickstead’s presence on the circuit will be very sadly missed.”
The competition was stopped out of respect for the horse, at the request of the riders. A minute's silence was also held.
“We finished our round, I circled and was leaving the ring, and he collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack,” the Globe and Mail quoted Lamaze as saying. “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. We are all devastated.”
FEI President HRH Princess Haya extended her condolences to everyone connected with the horse.
"This is a terrible loss, but Hickstead truly will never be forgotten," she said. "We were very lucky to have known him."
Lamaze, who is from Ontario, and Hickstead, who was born in the Netherlands, earned several awards.
"In addition to winning Individual Gold and Team Silver Medals in dramatic fashion at the Olympic Games, the pair also won Team Silver and Individual Bronze medals at the 2007 Pan American Games," stated a message on the Torrey Pines Stable website, which was posted to inform people that the horse was being offered for breeding in North America. "They claimed the richest annual event in show jumping, the $1 million CN International, at the 2007 Spruce Meadows “Masters” Tournament, making Lamaze only the second Canadian rider in the event’s history to capture the title. In 2008, the pair enjoyed an emotional homecoming by winning the $100,000 CN World Cup Grand Prix in front of a home crowd at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, ON."
In a 2006 press release Lamaze stated that Hickstead was not an easy horse, but was feisty and knew that knocking a rail down was not good.
"Hickstead and Eric have been one of equestrianism’s most legendary partnerships,” Akaash Maharaj, CEO of Equine Canada and the Canadian Equestrian Team, said. “Our team, our sport and our country grieve with Eric, Delphine and the Fleischhacker family on the passing of one of Canada’s greatest equine heroes.”
A video showing the horse collapsing can be seen here.