Big Ben was born on April 20, 1976. His original name was “Winston” when he was born into the van Hooydonk Farm in northern Belgium. Although he was from humble roots and average sized parents, Big Ben grew up larger than most other Belgian Warmbloods: big enough for big goals and dreams. Due to his size, he was bought for a Canadian equestrian named Ian Millar at a hefty cost: $45,000. Big Ben was then relocated to a farm in Perth, Ontario, Canada. As he began training and soon after began winning races, Ian Millar was offered many generous offers for Big Ben, but their bond was a strong one, so he refused every one.
His career took off in 1984 when he began his show jumping events. On top of these events, Millar rode Big Ben through more than 40 Grand Prix titles. Two of these titles included world cups: one the pair earned in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1988 and one in Tampa, Florida the following year. Just a year later, Big Ben lead Millar to three more Grand Prix titles, making Ian Millar the number one rider in the world. The two also won two other prestigious international titles. Big Ben seemed unstoppable, despite two episodes of colic and a traffic accident where his trailer was completely overturned. Two other horses were killed and another was too injured to continue its career. Despite this traumatic experience, Big Ben won the Grand Prix again just two months later. His final derby appearance was in front of 50,000 spectators where he led Millar, once again, to victory. At the age of 18, Big Ben finally retired after a long and successful career. He suffered a third bought of colic, which proved to be fatal. He rests today on a knoll overlooking Millar’s farm.
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