Big Ben (horse)

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Big Ben
Breed Belgian Warmblood
Sire Etretat
Grandsire Vagabond
Dam Oekie
Maternal grandsire Flevo
Sex Gelding
Foaled 1976
Country Belgium
Colour Liver Chestnut with a blaze and socks on both hind legs
Breeder Jacobus van Hooydonk
Owner Ian Millar
Honors
Earnings
$1.5 million +

Big Ben (April 20, 1976 – December 11, 1999) was a world champion show jumping horse.

Birth and Acquisition by Ian Millar[edit]

First named "Winston", Big Ben was born at the van Hooydonk Farm in Kalmthout (northern Belgium). Although his dam was only 15 hh, Big Ben grew to be a very large horse of 17.3 hands high. Soon after, he was purchased for Canadian equestrian Ian Millar for $45,000 and permanently relocated to Millar Brooke Farm in Perth, Ontario, Canada. Several lucrative offers were made to buy Big Ben throughout his career, but the ownership group, as well as Ian Millar, had such a strong bond with him that they refused all offers.

Career[edit]

In 1984, the horse began competing in show jumping events, touching off what would become a long and successful career. Millar rode Big Ben to more than 40 Grand Prix titles including six Spruce Meadows Derbys, as well as taking the world cup show jumping championship two years in a row - the first World Cup Final coming at Gothenburg, Sweden in 1988, and then again the next year in Tampa, Florida. In 1989 he won the Grand Prix of Bordeaux, France and the Grand Prix of Stuttgart, Germany, ranking Millar number one in the world. Millar and Big Ben also won the du Maurier International twice, in 1987 and 1991, the world's richest grand prix event at that time.

In 1992 Big Ben survived two bouts with colic and an accident in which his horse trailer overturned on a highway after a head-on collision with a car. Two other horses died, and a third became unrideable due to its injuries. A fourth would never enter a trailer again. Big Ben won a Grand Prix only 2 months later. After much talk about his mounting injuries, he would go on to win his sixth Spruce Meadows Derby in front of 50,000 spectators. This was his final derby appearance. [1]

Retirement and Death[edit]

Big Ben's grave site at Millar Brooke Farm

In 1994, at age 18 and after 11 years of competition, Big Ben was retired to Millar Brooke Farm. On December 11, 1999, after two veterinarians informed Millar that Big Ben was suffering from a third, untreatable case of colic, he was euthanised at Millar Brooke Farm. He is buried on a knoll overlooking the farm.

Honours and Memorials[edit]

In 1999, Big Ben was recognised as a Canadian icon when Canada Post honoured him with his own stamp. Big Ben was inducted into the Ontario Sports Legends Hall of Fame and joined thoroughbred racehorse Northern Dancer as the only other horse in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. His story is told in the book titled "Big Ben", by author Lawrence Scanlan.

In 2000, Big Ben's personal groom, Sandi Patterson, wrote a tribute to Big Ben in the book titled "An Apple a Day: A Heartwarming Collection of True Horse Stories" edited by Kimberly Gatto. In 2005, the Perth and District Chamber of Commerce erected a bronze statue of Big Ben, with Ian Millar riding, in a park on the banks of the Tay River in downtown Perth, Ontario. Big Ben's image lives on as a Breyer model horse.

In 2011, a book titled Unbridled Passion: Show Jumping's Greatest Horses and Riders, written by Jeff Papows, featured Big Ben and his owner and rider, Ian Millar. The book documented the challenges, such as the two bouts of life-threatening colic surgery, that Big Ben faced inside and outside the competitive ring. It features original research and interviews with Ian Miller and Big Ben's personal groom, Sandi Patterson.[2]

Achievements[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Papows, Jeff (2011). Unbridled Passion: Show Jumping's Greatest Horses and Riders. Acanthus Publishing. 
  2. ^ Papows, Jeff (2011). Unbridled Passion: Show Jumping's Greatest Horses and Riders. Acanthus Publishing. 

External links[edit]