Big Ben (horse)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Big Ben
Big Ben (horse).jpg
Big Ben at Royal Agricultural Winter Fair during his retirement tour, November 1994
BreedBelgian Warmblood
Maternal grandsireFlevo
Foaled(1976-04-20)April 20, 1976
Kalmthout, Belgium
DiedDecember 11, 1999(1999-12-11) (aged 23)
Perth, Ontario, Canada
ColourLiver Chestnut with a blaze and socks on both hind legs
BreederJacobus van Hooydonk
OwnerIan Millar
$1.5 million +

Big Ben (April 20, 1976 – December 11, 1999) was a world champion show jumping horse.

Birth and acquisition by Ian Millar[edit]

First named "Winston", Big Ben was born at the van Hooydonk Farm in Kalmthout (northern Belgium). Although his dam was only 15 hands (60 inches, 152 cm), Big Ben grew to be a very large horse standing 17.3 hands (71 inches, 180 cm) high. Soon after, he was purchased for Canadian equestrian Ian Millar for $45,000 and permanently relocated to Millar Brooke Farm in Perth, Ontario, Canada. Several lucrative offers were made to buy Big Ben throughout his career, but the ownership group, as well as Ian Millar, had such a strong bond with him that they refused all offers.


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 a row - the first World Cup Final coming at Gothenburg, Sweden in 1988, and then again the next year in Tampa, Florida. In 1989 he won the Grand Prix of Bordeaux, France 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 his horse trailer overturned on a highway after a head-on collision with a car. Two 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. After much talk about his mounting injuries, he would go on to win his sixth Spruce Meadows Derby in front of 50,000 spectators. This was his final derby appearance. [1]

Retirement and death[edit]

Big Ben's grave site at Millar Brooke Farm

After 11 years of competition, Big Ben was retired to Millar Brooke Farm in 1994. On December 11, 1999, two veterinarians informed Millar that Big Ben was suffering from a third, untreatable case of colic. He was euthanized at Millar Brooke Farm at 23 years of age.[2] He was buried on a knoll overlooking the farm.

Honours and memorials[edit]

In 1999, Big Ben was recognised as a Canadian icon when Canada Post honoured him with his own stamp.[3] Big Ben was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame[4] and joined Thoroughbred racehorse Northern Dancer as the only other horse in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.[5] His story is told in the book titled "Big Ben", by author Lawrence Scanlan.

In 2000, Big Ben's personal groom, Sandra Patterson, wrote a 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.[6] Big Ben's image lives on as a Breyer model horse.

In 2011, a book titled Unbridled Passion: Show Jumping's Greatest Horses and Riders, written by Jeff Papows, featured Big Ben and his owner and rider, Ian Millar. The book documented the challenges, such as the two bouts of life-threatening colic surgery, that Big Ben faced inside and outside the competitive ring. It features original research and interviews with Ian Miller and Big Ben's personal groom, Sandi Patterson.[7]



  1. ^ Papows, Jeff (2011). Unbridled Passion: Show Jumping's Greatest Horses and Riders. Acanthus Publishing. Archived from the original on 2012-01-26. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  2. ^ "Big Ben Dies At 23". Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  3. ^ "Big Ben | Postage Stamp | Canada". Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  4. ^ "Big Ben". Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  5. ^ "Canada's Sports Hall of Fame | Stories". Retrieved 7 May 2017.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Big Ben and Ian Millar". Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  7. ^ Papows, Jeff (2011). Unbridled Passion: Show Jumping's Greatest Horses and Riders. Acanthus Publishing. Archived from the original on 2012-01-26. Retrieved 2011-08-10.

External links[edit]