Canadian Olympic champion Eric Lamaze has saddled up his last showjumper but will continue his involvement in the sport as Technical Advisor and Chef d-Equipe for Canada’s Showjumping team.
Lamaze announced his official retirement from showjumping competition this week, “with regret and sadness”.
The popular rider has battled brain cancer since 2017, and last competed at the CSIO5* Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ tournament in Calgary, Alberta, where he anchored the Canadian team to victory in the $600,000 Bank of Montreal Nations’ Cup on September 11, 2021.
It was to be his last competitive appearance on home soil at his favourite venue, where he is the all-time leading money winner with career earnings exceeding $6.7 million.
In 2021, Lamaze was awarded the Order of Sport and inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame with Hickstead in October, and in November stepped back from top-level competition in what he described as a sabbatical from the sport. Earlier this year, he took on the role of Technical Advisor for Canada’s Showjumping team.
“It’s with great sadness that I am making this decision,” said Lamaze, 53, who is based in Wellington, Florida, and Brussels, Belgium.
“There’s a part of me that feels really upset that I’ve been battling cancer with the hope of riding again and I’m crushed that that won’t be the case. I’ve always said that I will retire under my own terms when the time is right. The situation with my health has forced me to make the decision earlier than I had envisioned, but the silver lining is that I still have the will to win and can contribute to the Canadian team and the sport I love through my new role as chef d’equipe.
“Now I have to turn my focus to giving my knowledge back to my fellow riders,” Lamaze said.
“I’ve always loved teaching and preparing horses and riders for major championships. I will give these riders every opportunity I ever had myself and I have great ideas for the future. I want every Canadian rider to know that their dreams are my dreams, too. When they win, I win.”
Since taking over the position of chef d’equipe, Lamaze has guided the Canadian Team to second-place finishes in both the CSIO4* Nations’ Cup in Wellington, Floirida, on March 5, 2022, and the CSIO5* Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ in Coapexpan, Mexico, on March 20, 2022.
He said the role had been much more time-consuming than he first imagined.
“But I love the energy that we’re creating and the path we’re heading down. The excitement among the Canadian riders and the support they’ve given me has helped to make my decision much easier. What I’m giving up personally by not competing I’m gaining ten times over by leading other Canadians on their journey to success. Yes, it’s bittersweet, but knowing that I can still make huge contributions to the sport in another role leaves me at peace with my decision.”
Born in Montreal, Quebec, Lamaze began competing at the grand prix level in 1991 and a year later was named to the Canadian equestrian team. His first major competition as a national team member was the 1994 World Equestrian Games in The Hague, Netherlands, and he has won medals at every major games during his 30-year career.
In 2004, he met his ultimate partner, Hickstead (Hamlet x Ekstein), the Dutch Warmblood stallion bought by John Fleischhacker. Three years later, Lamaze became the first Canadian jumping rider in 20 years to make the top 10 in the FEI world rankings. The duo was considered the best competitors of their era, claiming Olympic gold in 2008 and leading Canada to a team silver medal. Lamaze also competed in the London 2012 Olympics, and won an individual bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, aboard Fine Lady 5 (Forsyth x Drosselklang II), a Hanoverian mare owned by Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stables.
Lamaze competed at the last seven consecutive World Equestrian Games between the years of 1994 and 2018, winning an individual bronze medal at the 2010 edition in Lexington, Kentucky, where Hickstead was honoured with the title of “Best Horse”. He represented Canada in five consecutive Pan American Games and led Canada to the team gold medal on home soil in his last appearance in 2015 in Toronto, Ontario.
Having been ranked the No.1 rider in the world on several occasions, contested six World Cup Final titles, and having won every major grand prix title around the world, Lamaze’s contributions to his country and his sport both nationally and internationally are enormous.
“There are so many people to say thank you to for my career, especially the owners who I will personally thank for trusting me with their horses,” Lamaze said. “I’m so sad to be making this announcement, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but I am excited at the same time to still be able to play a role in the sport I love.”