Eventing Gold Medalist King Artus Dies at Competition

Aortic rupture is the most likely cause of death of German Olympic gold medal winning mount King Artus, according to the attending veterinarian. The 17-year-old Holsteiner gelding collapsed at the end of a cross-country course Saturday (May 18) in Weisbaden, Germany.

German rider Dirk Schrade jumped off King Artus shortly after crossing the finish line, as the horse started to stumble and collapse, said Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) veterinarian Gerit Matthesen, DrMedVet. The pair had ridden a clear round in the FEI CIC*** at the Wiesbaden Pfingstturnier event and finished in second place behind Ingrid Klimke and FRH Escada of Germany.

“We are all shocked and stunned by the tragic loss of King,” Schrade’s official website stated. “To lose such an extraordinary horse cannot be expressed in words.” The site referred to King’s death as “incomprehensible.”

“The horse performed a quick round in a nice gallop within the time limit,” Mattheson told The Horse on May 21. “He cantered out one and a half rounds in the main arena, went to the trot, wobbled, and fell.”

Matheson rushed to the horse’s aid, the German news source Frankfurter Rundschau reported, but there was nothing he could do. He gave a tentative diagnosis of aortic rupture as cause of death.

“This can happen to any horse in any situation, whether it is in dressage, in jumping, riding in the field, or in the paddock,” Mattheson said in an official statement released by the event organizers. “The exact reason for the artery rupture (remains) unknown.”

Aortic rupture was the official cause of death in 2011 of international show jumper Hickstead in Verona, Italy.

“An FEI horse competing at this level is possibly one of the most regularly checked and inspected athletes possible, with pre-event vet inspections, event, team, and individual private veterinary cover taking place at any event,” FEI Veterinary Director Graeme Cooke had stated at the time.

“This is quite similar to the Hickstead case,” Mattheson told The Horse.

King Artus “presented himself in fantastic competition,” according to the official statement from event organizers.

In 2012, Schrade and King Artus received a team gold medal at the London Olympic Games, and placed sixth in the individual eventing competition. They most recently competed earlier this month at the Badminton trials, where Schrade retired after a refusal during cross-country.

A post-mortem examination in the veterinary pathology department of the University of Geissen in Germany is under way; results are pending but could “take time,” Mattheson said.

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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