Hickstead's Death Remains Under Investigation

The sudden death of Olympic show jumping champion mount Hickstead Nov. 6 could have been caused by a number of factors and not necessarily cardiac arrest, according to the the Fédération Equestre Internationale's (FEI) top veterinary official .

"Until the results are known, it cannot be assumed that (the cause of death) was (a cardiac event)," Graeme Cooke, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, FEI veterinary director told The Horse. "Just like in everyday human life, there are several--but fortunately all rare--possible causes of a sudden collapse such as this."

Ridden by the current No. 1 international show jumper, Eric Lamaze from Canada, the 15-year-old bay KWPN stallion collapsed in the Rolex FEI World Cup show arena in Verona, Italy, Sunday. The horse and rider team had just completed the Rolf-Ludi-designed 13-fence course with only four faults, the FEI reported. Videos on YouTube, some with more than 200,000 views over the past two days, show Hickstead calmly walking out of the arena before suddenly weakening, sitting back on his haunches, and falling as Lamaze dismounts.

"It's very sad news indeed, and a very unusual event for an FEI discipline such as jumping," Cooke said. Although the discipline does not require "in-depth pre-competition tests" to study the horse's health status (for example, as would be used in an endurance race), Cooke said horses at this level are nonetheless very well-monitored and that there is no reason to believe there were any pre-existing conditions responsible for the stallion's death.

"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," he said.

A post-mortem examination of the horse is under way, Cooke added, and the results will be communicated first to the owner and rider and then to the public.

The jumping competition--the fourth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping 2011/12 series--was stopped at the request of the riders, according to the FEI. Riders, judges, and spectators paid homage to Hickstead with a moment of silence following his death.

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.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More