Big Ben, show jumper (b 1976 at Belgium, d at Guelph, Ont 11 Dec 1999). Bred in Belgium, Big Ben, partnered with seven-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar, became one of the greatest show jumping horses in the world. In the 1980s, Big Ben captured the hearts and imaginations of Canadians and show jumping fans worldwide with his winning attitude and majestic presence.
Following three consecutive top ten World Cup Final finishes from 1985 to 1987, including a second-place finish in 1986, Millar and Big Ben made history by becoming the first horse-rider combination to win back-to-back World Cup Finals in 1988 at Goteborg, Sweden, and in 1989 at Tampa, US.
In his long and successful career, the phenomenal chestnut Belgian Warmblood gelding by Etretat represented Canada in the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games as well as the 1986 World Championships at Aachen, Germany. He was Millar's partner for the 1987 Pan American Games at Indianapolis, US, bringing home both individual and team gold medals. They were crowned Canadian National Show Jumping Champions in 1988, 1991 and 1993. In 1987 and 1991, they won the du Maurier International, show jumping's richest event, at the Spruce Meadows Masters tournament at Calgary, Alberta.
Following a national tour in 1994, Big Ben was officially retired, made an honorary member of the RCMP Musical Ride, and was inducted into the Ontario Sports Legends Hall of Fame. In 1996, both he and Millar were inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, making Big Ben the second non-human athlete to ever receive this prestigious honour, the first being thoroughbred racing legend Northern Dancer. In 1999, Canada Post issued a postage stamp to commemorate Big Ben's impact on Canadian history.
At the age of 23, Big Ben was euthanized at the University of Guelph after suffering a severe bout of colic. He is buried at Millar Brooke Farm in Perth, Ontario, where he had lived since being purchased by Canadian Show Jumpers Unlimited Inc. in 1983.
See also Equestrian Sports.