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

Big Ben
Big Ben at Royal Agricultural Winter Fair during his retirement tour, November 1994
BreedBelgian Warmblood
Maternal grandsireFlevo
Foaled(1976-04-20)April 20, 1976
Kalmthout, Belgium
DiedDecember 11, 1999(1999-12-11) (aged 23)
Perth, Ontario, Canada
ColourLiver Chestnut with a blaze and socks on both hind legs
BreederJacobus van Hooydonk
OwnerIan Millar
$1.5 million +

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 hands (60 inches, 152 cm), Big Ben grew to be a very large horse standing 17.3 hands (71 inches, 180 cm) 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

After 11 years of competition, Big Ben was retired to Millar Brooke Farm in 1994. On December 11, 1999, two veterinarians informed Millar that Big Ben was suffering from a third, untreatable case of colic. He was euthanized at Millar Brooke Farm at 23 years of age.[2] He was 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.[3] Big Ben was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame[4] and joined Thoroughbred racehorse Northern Dancer as the only other horse in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.[5] His story is told in the book titled "Big Ben", by author Lawrence Scanlan.

In 2000, Big Ben's personal groom, Sandra 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.[6] 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.[7]

Achievements Edit

Pedigree Edit

Big Ben's sire was Etretat, a 16.2 hands (66 inches, 168 cm) or 16.3 hands (67 inches, 170 cm) French chestnut stallion who was 3⁄4 Thoroughbred, and 1⁄4 Selle Français, registered as a Selle Français. His dam, Oekie, was a 15 hands (60 inches, 152 cm) chestnut mare who was 3⁄4 Gelderlander and 1⁄4 Selle Français, registered as a Belgian Warmblood. Similar Selle Français, Gelderlander, and Thoroughbred crosses were used to create the closely-related Dutch Warmblood horse breed.

Big Ben was descended in the male line from Precipitation (1933 – 1957), an influential British-bred Thoroughbred stallion who is found in the pedigrees of many racehorses and sport horses today. Precipitation was responsible for helping maintain the Matchem (1748 – 1781) and Godolphin Arabian sireline. Big Ben's dam, Oekie, was descended in the male line from Furioso (1939 – 1968), an influential Thoroughbred sire of sport horses who was also sired by Precipitation.

It is unclear where Big Ben's large 17.3 hands (71 inches, 180 cm) height came from in his pedigree. His ancestors ranged from 15.3 hands (63 inches, 160 cm) to 16.3 hands (67 inches, 170 cm), based on registration and studbook records.

Pedigree of Big Ben, chestnut horse foaled in 1976
ch. 1970
Selle Français
b. 1965
Selle Français
Enfant Terrible xx
ch. 1957
Preciptation xx
ch. 1933
Mahallat xx
br. 1950
ch. 1958
Selle Français
Gagné Si Peu
br. 1950
Selle Français
ch. 1943
Selle Français
Royal Route II xx
br. 1962
Protee xx
ch. 1946
Rovigo xx
ch. 1925
Provocante xx
ch. 1940
Route Royale xx
b. 1955
Horatius xx
br. 1936
Rosapat xx
br. 1947
ch. 1968
Belgian Warmblood
br. 1964
br. 1959
Selle Français
Kami de l'Île (by Furioso)
ch. 1954
Selle Français
Selle Français
ch. 1948
Graaf van Wittenstein
ch. 1942
br. 1943
ch. 1963
br. 1950
br. 1946
bl. 1939
gr. 1950
br. 1943
gr. 1943

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ Papows, Jeff (2011). Unbridled Passion: Show Jumping's Greatest Horses and Riders. Acanthus Publishing. Archived from the original on 2012-01-26. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  2. ^ "Big Ben Dies At 23". Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  3. ^ "Big Ben | Postage Stamp | Canada". Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  4. ^ "Big Ben". Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  5. ^ "Canada's Sports Hall of Fame | Stories". Retrieved 7 May 2017.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Big Ben and Ian Millar". Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  7. ^ Papows, Jeff (2011). Unbridled Passion: Show Jumping's Greatest Horses and Riders. Acanthus Publishing. Archived from the original on 2012-01-26. Retrieved 2011-08-10.

External links Edit