Olympic eventer Colombo dies at 20

Colombo and Selena O'Hanlon.
Colombo and Selena O’Hanlon. © Michelle Dunn

Canadian eventer Colombo has died at the age of 20 after suffering from an untreatable lymphoma.

The Swedish Warmblood gelding was ridden by Selena O’Hanlon and owned by Elaine and Michael Davies.

He was bred in Sweden and was by the thoroughbred sire Eighty Eight Keys (by Fappiano) and out of the Concarneau mare Colette.

In 2007, O’Hanlon was first named to the Canadian Eventing National Team with Colombo, and the pair made their four-star debut together at the 2008 CCI 4* Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, in Lexington, Kentucky, finishing in 20th.

That result earned O’Hanlon and Colombo a place on the Canadian Team at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, where they impressed with a top 20 placing in the opening phase of dressage before finishing 46th individually.

In 2010, the pair earned an eighth place finish at the CCI 4* Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, which once again earned them a major games team spot. O’Hanlon and Colombo were members of the Canadian Eventing Team that brought home Canada’s first silver eventing medal in 32 years at the 2010 World Equestrian Games held in Lexington.

“He was one of the greats,” said O’Hanlon. “It was an honor to ride him, and I’m so lucky that our paths crossed thanks to the Davies. I will truly miss him every single day. He was a dear friend. Spent the greatest moments of my life with him.

“I have always felt lucky that Colombo and I met. He showed me the way to the top. At the core of it all we simply trusted each other and we reached for the stars.  I expected to have many years to feed him mints and pay him back for his incredible friendship. He was a gentleman and a champion to the very end and I will miss him so much it hurts.”

Selena’s mother, Morag, said: “He made our dreams come true and he changed our lives forever. His amazing owners, Elaine and Michael Davies’ dream of producing a horse and rider combination to represent Canada on the Team. Selena’s long held dream of going to the Olympics, and my own dream of going to China and Asia. He took us all with him on his journey and we soared to heights we thought beyond us.

“How did a great big fat Swedish Warmblood manage to get the fastest cross country time at the WEG? Really? There was a spark of magic in that horse and I thank providence that I was lucky enough to have him touch my life and change it.”

Colombo was retired from competition in 2012 and enjoyed the past few years with the O’Hanlon’s at their farm, Balsam Hall, in Kingston, Ontario.

Equine Canada and the Canadian Equestrian Team has extended their heartfelt condolences to Colombo’s connections.

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