Remarkable Horses of Canada: Hickstead

By Margaret Evans

In the July/August 2017 issue of Canadian Horse Journal, we celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary with stories of 20 exceptional horses that have reflected our values and fired our national pride. One of those horses was Hickstead.

The celebrated show jumper, Hickstead, was a bay Dutch Warmblood born in Belgium on March 2, 1996, owned by Torrey Pines and Ashland Stables Inc., and ridden to Olympic gold and silver by Canadian Eric Lamaze. 

Lamaze and Hickstead at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, where the stallion earned the title “Best Horse in the World.” Photo: Robin Duncan Photography

At 16 hands, Hickstead was small as warmbloods go, and also excitable, making him a challenging ride. But he was huge in heart, and with his fiery boldness and superb skill he set new standards over the fences.

Medals stacked up. At the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Lamaze and Hickstead won silver in team jumping and bronze in individual. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, they won gold in individual and silver in team jumping. This was the first individual gold medal won in equestrian and second overall gold won by Canada in Olympic history, the other being a team jumping gold won in the 1968 Olympics. At the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, the pair won team silver and individual bronze, and Hickstead earned the title “Best Horse in the World.”

Despite his smaller stature, Hickstead was a commanding presence in the show jumping arena, and fans loved his bravery, talent, and enthusiasm. Photo: Robin Duncan Photography

But a year later, tragedy struck. On November 6, 2011, at a competition in Verona, Italy, Hickstead collapsed after finishing a round and died where he lay of an aortic rupture. The loss was devastating, not only to Lamaze but to the entire jumping community and the wider equestrian world.

Hickstead had come into the show jumping world with his own set of challenges and a reputation for being unruly, and at a time when Lamaze had challenges of his own, his career off the rails for a while. But Lamaze recognized in the stallion something others had missed. In the pressurized world of international competition, Hickstead showed his rider that all challenges can be overcome, while Lamaze gave his partner the trust and confidence that would take both of them to the pinnacle of achievement in show jumping. Lamaze was ranked the number one rider in the world twice (January 2009 and July 2010) and Hickstead came to be regarded as the greatest show jumper on the planet. As the amazing partnership jumped their way to victory, they became a source of national pride and earned their place in the hearts of Canadians.

Main article photo: Lamaze and Hickstead competing in the 2011 CN International tournament at Spruce Meadows, Calgary, Alberta, which they won. Less than two months later, the stallion was dead. Photo: Robin Duncan Photography

This article was originally published in the July/August 2017 issue of Canadian Horse Journal.

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