Popular eventer Sparrow’s Nio dies on US cross-country

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Alexandra Sacksen and Sparrow's Nio competing at the 2019 Morven Park International Horse Trials.
Alexandra Sacksen and Sparrow’s Nio competing at the 2019 Morven Park International Horse Trials. © USEA/Leslie Mintz

The connections of popular eventing horse Sparrow’s Nio are mourning the loss of the 17-year-old after he collapsed and died while on the cross-country phase of the Morven Park Fall Horse Trials in Virginia at the weekend.

Ridden by Allie Sacksen, Sparrow’s Nio was competing in the advanced division at the Leesburg event on Saturday, October 3, when he collapsed between fences 19 and 20. His cause of death is unknown at this time, pending necropsy.

Sacksen was attended to onsite and sustained no apparent injuries, organisers said.

Sparrow’s Nio, a 15.3hh connemara-thoroughbred cross, had been with Sacksen since 2010.

In an interview in 2015 with Eventing Nation, Sacksen said she had ridden Nio’s half brother, Marshall, a connemara-quarter horse cross, but lost him when he was struck by lightning. She was a fan of the connemara cross, describing the horses from the Grange Finn Sparrow line as “freaky amazing jumpers, so I knew I wanted to try to get another one from that line after Marshall”.

Nio was Sacksen’s Pony Club mount. They started at novice, and they won the CCI2* at Fair Hill in 2013. She brought him up to five-star level, competing at the Kentucky Three-Day Event three times, most recently in 2019. They placed second at the Morven Park CCI4*-S last fall.

Nio’s sire was the connemara stallion Grange Finn Sparrow, who died in 2010 at the age of 35. He was bred in Ireland, where he was an A-Grade showjumper. He was exported to Austria, and in the mid-1980s was imported to the US, where he competed in the hunter and jumper rings, and was hunted by Bruce Davidson. He has many progeny and grand-get competing, particularly in eventing, and made the top 10 leading eventing sire list several times. Grange Finn Sparrow has his own Facebook page, titled “Everyone’s Favorite Pony“.

Nio’s dam, Parva Stella, is by Hay Halo, a son of Halo from the Hail To Reason sire line, and out of Haps Dancer, by Native Dancer’s son, Fern Dancer.

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