Bad News and Good News

I was horrified to learn two days ago of the death of Hickstead Sunday at a show jumping competition in Italy. He was the wonderful stallion I saw Canada?s Eric Lamaze ride to individual Olympic gold three years ago in Hong Kong. He collapsed in the ring after finishing a round, and the preliminary report is that he suffered a heart attack, but we won?t know for sure for several days. He was 15 years old and still very much at the top of his game.

Since Hickstead had been generally acknowledged as the best show jumper in the world, his owners have been inundated over the last couple days for frozen semen. There apparently isn?t much available, and Hickstead had been bred to only 100 mares before his death. He was “only” 16 hands, so even though he was a tremendous performer, he apparently was still a bit of a question mark as a stallion and had trouble getting accepted in a studbook as a youngster.

This follows the wonderful news last week that the U.S. equestrian team continued its unprecedented medal haul at the Pan Am Games in Mexico, winning 10 out of a possible 12 medals, including all three team medals. All this seemingly bodes well for the U.S. at the Olympics next year in London. However, the dressage and eventing competitions at the Pan Ams are a notch below the Olympic standard, so those horses are pointing more toward the future than just a year away. The fact that the U.S. jumpers were so dominant against tough courses and competition is a positive sign for next year.

The dressage team is planning training sessions over the winter for team contenders with team leader Anne Gribbons and the leading candidate for the team, Steffen Peters. I find it fascinating that a potential team member will be coaching those who will be battling for team positions over the spring, but this is also an acknowledgement that Peters is a wonderful, highly respected coach even beyond the fact that He’s clearly the top rider in the U.S.

We’re still looking at some piles of snow here just north of NYC even though the snowstorm that piled up 8 inches on my lawn and 15 inches at our barn just a little way to the north was 11 days ago and we’ve had temperatures since then in the 60s. After we got electricity back at the barn (5 days later!), my next thought was to the snow on the roof of the indoor. I verified (once again), that the indoor has a shingled roof rather than a metal roof. Sure enough, the snow dribbled down the gutters rather than sliding off in loud crashes, as it did in the indoor where I boarded last winter. Maybe it will be different as we get more snow piled up over the winter, but for now one of my greatest winter dreads has been eased.