Dressage Champion Bonfire Dies at 30

Olympic gold medalist Bonfire, equine partner to Dutch dressage rider Anky van Grunsven, was euthanized Monday (Oct. 28) due to complications from equine Cushing’s disease and laminitis.

“My heart is broken; Bonfire died,” Grunsven announced Monday evening via Twitter.

The 30-year-old bay Oldenberg gelding had been retired since 2002, two years after winning the gold medal in individual dressage at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Van Grunsven and Bonfire had previously won team silver medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, in addition to numerous other World Cup, World Equestrian Games, and European Championships titles.

“Bonfire already had problem with his adrenal glands for a while, and in the last few weeks he also had inflamed hooves,” said Ilse de Groot, a representative for van Grunsven. “He could barely walk or stand on his hooves.”

Van Grunsven’s website specifies that the adrenal condition and inflamed hooves were related to Cushing’s disease and laminitis, respectively. While the Cushing’s had been mostly under control, the laminitis in all four hooves was difficult for the horse to bear, according to the Dutch version of van Grunsven’s official website. “We did everything to make him better,” it states. “Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated on Sunday, and on Monday Anky made the difficult decision to have him put to sleep.”

Van Grunsven was with Bonfire when he was euthanized, de Groot said.

Van Grunsven and her father, Wim van Grunsven—who trained Anky van Grunsven in her early years—purchased Bonfire as a 2-year-old from his German breeders in 1985.

“At that age it's difficult to see if a horse has talent for the Grand Prix, but already then I knew there was something special about him,” van Grunsven said on her official website. “And special he was! Our career highlight was in 2000 in Sydney when we won the Olympic gold. Bonfire still is my favorite horse! I like to watch him enjoying the field every day.”

“Anky’s heart is broken,” de Groot said. “Bonfire is the horse which she had for 28 years. It all started with him, and Bonfire also reminds her of her dad. He was always with them at trainings and competitions.”

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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