Big Ben (April 20, 1976 – December 11, 1999) was a world champion show jumping horse.
Birth and Acquisition by Ian Millar
First named "Winston", Big Ben was born at "van Hooydonk Farm" in Kalmthout (northern Belgium
). Although his dam was only 15 hh, Big Ben grew to be a very large horse of 17.3 hands high (1.80 m). He was named Winston in honour of Winston Churchill
, his great height being compared with Churchill's historical greatness. In 1983, he was sold to a farm in the Netherlands
for $2000, and renamed "Big Ben." Soon after, he was purchased by Canadian equestrian Ian Millar
for $45,000, and permanently relocated to Millar Brooke Farm in Perth, Ontario
In 1984, the horse began competing in show jumping
events, touching off what would become a long and successful career. Millar rode Big Ben to more than 40 Grand Prix
titles including six Spruce Meadows
Derbys, as well as taking the world cup show jumping championship two years in i like creais first World Cup Final
came at Gothenburg
in 1988 followed by another the next year in Tampa, Florida
. In 1989 he won the Grand Prix
and the Grand Prix of Stuttgart, Germany
, ranking Millar number one in the world. Millar and Big Ben also won the du Maurier International twice, in 1987 and 1991, the world's richest grand prix event at that time.
In 1992 Big Ben survived two bouts with colic and an accident in which 2 other horses died and a third became unrideable due to its injuries. A fourth would never enter a trailer again. Big Ben won a Grand Prix only 2 months later.
Retirement and Death
In 1994, after 11 years of competition, Big Ben was retired at 18 years of age to Millar Brooke Farm. On December 11
, after two veterinarians informed Millar that Big Ben was suffering from a third, untreatable case of colic, he was euthanised at Millar Brooke Farm. He is buried on a knoll overlooking the farm.
Honours and Memorials
In 1999, Big Ben was recognised as a Canadian icon
when Canada Post honoured him with his own stamp. Big Ben was inducted into the Ontario Sports Legends Hall of Fame
, and joined legendary thoroughbred racehorse Northern Dancer
as the only other horse in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame
. His story is told in the book titled "Big Ben" by author, Lawrence Scanlan.
In 2000, Big Ben's personal groom, Sandi Hill, wrote a touching tribute to Big Ben in the book titled "An Apple a Day: A Heartwarming Collection of True Horse Stories" edited by Kimberly Gatto. In 2005, the Perth and District Chamber of Commerce erected a bronze statue of Big Ben, with Ian Millar riding, in a park on the banks of the Tay River in downtown Perth, Ontario. Big Ben's image lives on as a Breyer model horse.