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Big Ben (horse)

Big Ben
Breed Belgian Warmblood
Sire Etretat
Grandsire Vagabond
Dam Oekie
Damsire Flevo
Gender Gelding
Foaled 1976
Country Belgium
Color Liver Chestnut with a blaze and socks on both hind legs
Breeder Jacobus van Hooydonk
Owner Ian Millar
Earnings $1.5 million +

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 for Canadian equestrian Ian Millar for $45,000 by Dwyer Hill Farms, and permanently relocated to Millar Brooke Farm in Perth, Ontario, Canada.


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 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, 1999, 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.

File:BigBen gravesite.jpg
Big Ben's grave site at Millar Brooke 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.


  • Won over $1.5 million in prize money
  • First horse to win 2 consecutive World Cup Final titles 1988 Gothenburg and 1989 Tampa, Florida
  • Team and Individual Gold medals at the 1987 Pan Am Games, Indianapolis
  • Member of the 4th place Team at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles
  • Member of the 4th place Team at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul
  • Canadian National Show Jumping Champion 1988, 1991 and 1993
  • Won the Spruce Meadows Derby 6 times in eight years (the Chrysler Classic in '86,'87 and '89 and the Shell Cup in '91,'92 and '93)
  • One of only two horses inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.


External links


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