Canadian Olympic show jumping horse Zucarlos has died at the age of 32.
Zucarlos, who was Jay Hayes’ mount for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, died on June 10.
Equine Canada President Michael Gallagher said the organisation recognised the valuable contributions to the sport that Zucarlos had made over the years.
“He was truly one of the most memorable horses to ever represent Canada, and many consider him a true icon of our sport.
“Like a true champion, Zucarlos retired from competition with grace to enjoy a fabulous retirement with the Hayes family. Our heartfelt condolences are extended to the Hayes family.”
A large syndicate put together by Don Wood, Dr Ken Peterson (who later became CET Chairman), and his wife Dr Gillian Peterson bought Zucarlos as a four year old in 1985. He became a top international show jumper and breeding stallion at the Hayes’ North Ridge farm, now located in Orangeville, Ontario.
Only three riders ever competed with the spirited stallion; Jay Hayes for his entire career, Olympic Gold Medalist Eric Lamaze (who worked for and trained with Jay when Zucarlos was younger), and Lauren Hayes, who rode him briefly as her first junior jumper before he enjoyed a full retirement.
A truly modern, athletic, balanced, and careful horse, Zucarlos was full of scope, and always a crowd favourite with his trademark bucking.
“There are too many stories to tell, but one is at the Barcelona Olympics where there was a long approach to the first fence of the final individual qualifier. He started his bucking and did so all the way to the first fence! The Spanish crowd loved it and started chanting ‘Olé’ in rhythm to his bucking! He kept his focus; but he loved it,” reminisced Jay.
Although a small horse, Zucarlos competed fiercely against the best, including the legendary Big Ben. Even with the bucking and his stature, he was an accomplished horse who competed in and won many grand prix classes. He was a strong member of 15 nations cup teams, competed at the 1989 Tampa World Cup Finals, the 1990 Stockholm World Championships, and helped Jay become the top-placed Canadian at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Zucarlos also finished within the top three in 10 world cup qualifiers between 1988 and 1991, and was second in the 1992 Canadian Championships.
As a breeding stallion, Zucarlos produced some champions, but never fully threw himself and didn’t cross well with the popular Thoroughbreds of the time. In 2012, he sired a promising colt, Zarco, out of Revival (sired by Darco) whose dam is Jay’s current grand prix mount, Riva (who in turn is out of Jay’s 2000 Sydney Olympic mount, Diva). “It’s nice to keep it all in the family – we can’t wait to see what comes of Zarco,” said Shawn Hayes, Jay’s wife of 33 years.
Zucarlos enjoyed his retirement at North Ridge, where he spent his days outside with his beloved friend Emmanuelle, and kept a watch over the comings and goings of day-to-day life.
“In his retirement he was still in charge. If he wanted in or out, that happened right away. He welcomed anyone who came near with his famous nicker. He loved being retired and we were all happy he was able to enjoy the rest of his days with us in Orangeville. He will be missed, but the memories and the stories are still great ones to share. We look forward to honouring him at our event, the Orangeville International CSI2*, in August,” Jay said.
“I’ve never before then or since been on a horse’s back where I just knew everything was going to be fine in the ring. He was a competitor on his own and a true partner who did great things for our sport, our country, and me,” Jay said.
“It’s comforting to know he will still be on the farm overlooking the training ring.”