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Lamaze post Hickstead: fight on or call it quits?

November 10, 2011

» Hickstead - 1996-2011

After the death of his superstar showjumping horse Hickstead, Eric Lamaze says he has two choices.

Eric Lamaze wearing the Green and Gold Rolex armband as the World's top-ranked rider, at Spruce Meadows in June. © Thierry Billet of Sportfot
The first is to "pack it in" and let the riders he is associated with take over his horses - after all, he has won almost everything worth winning in recent years.

But the second is to "fight it out" and keep going for a while longer. "We will decide in the next week, the next few days where my career goes from here. I think I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve, but I'm not ready to go yet, but we will see.

"I very much hope that the Olympics is still something that can happen," Lamaze said.

He admitted he had considered retiring in the past few days: "I think it's a normal reaction," he said.

"I am number 1 in the world now, what [more] do you want me to do? Hickstead was a part of that but it was our entire stable of horses that got me there. So we still have plenty of horses to compete on. We have some wonderful horses. But to compete at that level every week you do need one superstar in your stable. If you're lucky to have two, better for you."

He said the setback of losing Hickstead has come after he had accomplished a lot of the goals that he had set in his life "thanks to Hickstead".

"Hickstead made my career in the sense that now I have fantastic owners who support me. I get to go to the best shows in the world, and I have many friends within the horse community who are behind me," said Lamaze, who had some dark days earlier in his showjumping career.

"This comes at a very different time in my life.

"If I decide to carry on {I will} work very hard to find another Hickstead. There will not be another Hickstead but try to find another horse that suits me very well and that will help Canada at the Olympic Games. My last goal in my career is to do another Olympics. After that I believe I would like to see the younger riders who are part of our team try to achieve what I have done," Lamaze said.

"I am going to continue to think about it, but I haven't had time to have this discussion with all the people who surround me. But if I stick around, we're going to fight it out and you're going to see a lot more of me."

Lamaze was asked about the financial repercussions of losing Hickstead, particularly in terms of his breeding career. Just 50 doses of frozen semen remain in Europe, and there are about 100 Hickstead foals on the ground worldwide.

But to Lamaze, the dollars do not come into it. "The money is not relevant. I think he had earned enough himself jumping, competing. (Hickstead earned $3.7 million). He wasn't a great breeding stallion, physically it was hard to collect him," he said.

"He was a small horse, he was built a little different. It is something we had planned on doing once he retired. I think the financial loss is not even in our thoughts."

Lamaze still feels Hickstead would have had another year of top-class competition in him. "I would not have taken him if he wasn't in the best of shape. For sure he had one full year in front of him, and then as a breeding stallion after that. It is a horse that you would have loved to retire, and give him a retirement ceremony like he deserved. But it was not meant to be."

Remembering his great horse, Lamaze said there were moments that Hickstead was unbeatable. "I think in Calgary this year, he was unbeatable. The Olympics in Beijing - he was unbeatable. Aachen, Germany, he was unbeatable.

"There were times that he was just that good, I hate to say for the other riders, he was unbeatable," Lamaze said.

"There have been a lot of great horses, but I think any rider in Europe or North America will concede that he was the best horse in the world. There maybe won't be another one like him," said Lamaze.

"I hope all riders get a chance to experience what I experienced on such a horse. It changes your life and your career. All the riders around the world have been so supportive. I have received so many e-mails. I think everybody loved that horse.

"I really want to thank everyone who participated in Hickstead's career. All the staff that took care of him, all the riders that rode him over the years, all the veterinarians that took care of him, all the people that were involved in shipping him around the world, all the blacksmiths - anyone who had anything to do with Hickstead. They all made a big difference. I want to thank them very much."



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