Olympic Eventer Lionheart Euthanized

Lionheart, a member of the 2012 British Olympic silver medal eventing team and recently purchased mount for U.S. eventer Allison Springer, has died. The 12-year-old Westphalian gelding was euthanized Jan. 18 in Florida following two colic surgeries.

The initial surgery, performed on Jan. 14 at Palm Beach Equine in Wellington, Fla., appeared at first successful, a statement on Springer’s Facebook page stated. “The doctors were able to quickly find and resolve an impaction in his small intestine,” the post read. “We were incredibly fortunate to have caught things very early, and as a result his surgery was minor in comparison to most colic surgeries that take place. Lion woke up from surgery very well, and all of the vets involved are optimistic that he will have a quick, non-complicated recovery.”

However, the colic did not resolve, and on Jan. 18, the second surgery was performed and euthanasia advised, said Robert Brusie, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, who, along with Kathleen A. Timmins, DVM, and a team of external experts, cared for Lionheart during his illness. That surgery confirmed that vascular damage to the horse’s intestines had occurred, Springer's statement said.

“The horse had excellent care, and there was nothing in the history that would explain the vascular accident or infarct (emboli or clot that blocks blood flow) that compromised the cecum and large colon,” Brusie told The Horse. “This sort of vascular accident, similar to a stroke, is very unusual in my experience.”

The Lionheart Syndicate LLC purchased Lionheart from British owners Jeremy and Judy Skinner in November 2013. Lionheart had previously been ridden by the U.K.’s William Fox-Pitt. Together they had earned a silver team medal in the 2012 Olympic Games and numerous top ten individual placings at three- and four-star eventing competitions. Springer had intended to prepare Lionheart for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, said a press release on the horse’s purchase.

“In the end, when the time came and there were no more options, I’m very appreciative of the tremendous veterinary effort made to save Lionheart,” Springer 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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