Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman / USEF
A show jumping star was lost Sunday. Sapphire, the mare known for her triumphant career with McLain Ward, that included Olympic team gold medals in 2004 and 2008, died due to complications from colic. She was 19.
“With a very heavy heart I have to share that Sara has passed away this morning due to complications from colic,” said Ward on his Facebook. “Our entire Castle Hill family and every person she has touched has lost a great friend. Thank you Sara not just for all the dreams you made come true but simply for being who you were. You always will be my champion in every way. God speed good friend.”
Ward and “Sara,” as she was known to those closest to her, earned top individual honors in many of the world’s most prestigious competitions, including a second-place finish at the 2009 Rolex/FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas. The pair twice claimed victory in the FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix (2009, 2010), the Grand Prix of Devon (2007, 2009), the Hampton Classic Grand Prix (2009, 2010), and the President’s Cup at the Washington International Horse Show (2008, 2010). Sapphire’s extensive resume also includes wins at the 2008 Budweiser Invitational, 2009 $1 Million CN International at Spruce Meadows, 2010 La Baule Grand Prix, 2010 Rome Grand Prix, and 2010 Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix.
Fans left messages of condolences for Castle Hill including, “Sapphire was and will remain a legendary mare who touched the hearts of millions of people around the world.”
“What an amazing girl, what a breathtaking partnership. It was a privilege every time I had a chance to watch you to in the ring — even watching you school her was exciting. So sorry for your loss,” said another.
Following her retirement, Ward wrote: “…I am so grateful that fate chose me as the one to be in her life, be her rider and partner as she blazed her trail into show jumping history. There will be times I will certainly miss her being by my side when the pressure is on, but when I think of her all I have is incredible memories.”
Foaled in 1995, the chestnut mare was by the successful Belgian showjumper, Darco.