Eric Lamaze and Hickstead. © Cealy Tetley
"It's hard for me to remember second for second what happened," he said of Hickstead's collapse on Sunday.
"But he collapsed and I was far away from him. I think he collapsed in a way that made sure he did not injure me in the process."
Lamaze said there had been no signs of Hickstead's pending collapse.
There had been nothing unusual with his jumping round, during which he dislodged one rail. Nor had there been anything usual with Hickstead's warmup. "Even his last jump went really well," he said.
"He was very healthy. I think this is just a fluke thing that can happen to any human or horse.
"He was in very, very good health, jumping very well, having just won the [CN] Million in Calgary ..."
Lamaze said Hickstead was a horse "we always protected". "He had a veterinarian who looked at him twice or three times week."
Lamaze said he felt Hickstead, although 15, had more jumping ahead of him, including the prospect of a tilt at the London Olympics.
"I think he for sure had one more year in him. He was a horse competing on an international circuit at a very high level. Another Olympic was not out of range for him."
Lamaze also spoke of Hickstead's loss as a breeding stallion - a new career sure to follow after his retirement from jumping.
There are about 100 Hickstead foals on the ground already, but only about 50 doses of frozen semen remained. None is left in North America.
"The loss is very large based on that."
He said he felt he shared a similar personality with Hickstead.
"We loved to win and we had the same energy, which turned into incredible things."
Lamaze said it had been a difficult few days.
"It is pretty emotional for me. He was a very, very special horse who was very exciting to watch. I think he did everything for the people who were watching him. He enjoyed a loud crowd."
"Hickstead was a special horse that was exciting to watch, and he loved a loud crowd. Being such an international horse, Hickstead didn't get a lot of time to come to Canada," said Lamaze, who is based in Brussels, Belgium.
He made the difficult decision to compete as planned at the Royal Horse Show, held as part of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, in Toronto, in tribute to Hickstead. On Tuesday night, he rode in the international show jumping competition with Herald 3, a horse owned by Carlene and Andy Ziegler of Artisan Farms. Upon entering the Ricoh Coliseum for the first time, Lamaze received a heartfelt standing ovation.
"I am here for the Canadian public and I am here to honour Hickstead; that's why I came," explained Lamaze of his decision to maintain his schedule and compete at the show.
"The people who are going to come to the Royal will get a last chance to remember him. If I had stayed back in Europe and not come here because I wasn't feeling great about riding, I don't think he would have gotten the recognition that he has received already and is about to get. I am here to remember Hickstead."
He continued: "I hope [other] riders have the chance to experience what I have had on such a horse, because it does change your life and your career.
"I think everybody loved that horse."
Of the impact Hickstead had on his life, Lamaze noted, "What these horses do for us is incredible. They become part of our family. They really change our lives. It is a sport we choose because we love it and it is sport we choose because we also love the animal. It is not like breaking a hockey stick or breaking a tennis racket. We become very close to these animals and we have great respect for what they do for us. We are in the limelight with them.
"A horse like Hickstead changed my career. For me, it meant everything."