On April 20,1976 an unusually tall colt was born in Northern Belgium on Hooydonk Farm. He was a liver chestnut, with a blaze on his forehead and two hind socks. Owner of the foal was Jacobus Van Hooydonk. The foal's name was Winston. His father was a 16-hand stallion named Etretat. His mother was named Oekie, but she was only 15 hands high.
Winston's second owner, Bert, was the one that named him Big Ben because he looked as if he was as high as the Clock Tower in London. But Bert didn't keep him long and 6 weeks later Ian Miller paid $45,000 for him even though Bert only paid $2,000. So that day Big Ben left the flat fields of Belgium and Holland for the hills of south eastern Ontario.
Big Ben and Ian Miller made a perfect match, they were both very tall and they went on to win many awards. They were World Cup Champions. In 1988 and 1989, they won the Spruce Meadows Maters Grand Prix twice. Big Ben's insurance companies valued him at $1 million. Big Ben has a tack room filled with ribbons, trophies, victory blankets, and he has more than $1.5 million in prize money.
Big Ben always had the courage to go in a jumping stadium
and win. He also had that courage when he was injured. Once he pulled something in his hoof two days before a big competition. The injury didn't seem to bother Ben so Ian decided to risk it and still enter him, and they still won! Big Ben also had two really bad attacks of colic and unlike most horses, Ben made it through. After his second attack, he was named a Canadian Champion, because he was the first champion show jumper to make it through two colic attacks. In 1992, Big Ben and six other champions were in a terrible highway accident. Two of them died, one was hurt too badly to ever be ridden again, and one of them would never go on a trailer again. Big Ben and one other horse were the only ones who went back to being champions. Two months later Big Ben won the Grand Prix.
Big Ben is admired by many. Ian Miller admired him the most; he knew what Ben was capable of and knew he could make it over any jump. Fans sent him valentines and when he was sick or injured they sent him get well soon cards. Fans of all ages sent him homemade bran muffins. A lot of junior riders looked up to Big Ben and Ian Miller and wished they had a horse like Big Ben. After Big Ben died, they painted a picture of him in his favorite field with Ian in the back watching him. Also the Breyor Horse Model Co. made a model of him.
On December 1989 at the Grand Prix there was a ceremony to honour Big Ben. That evening Ian sat alone on Ben in the middle of the arena, not sure what to expect. An official came forward to present Ian with an oil painting of Etretat (Big Ben's Father). Then at the in gate, entered a small mare who seemed oddly familiar. It was Oekie (Big Ben's Mother). Then Etretat came in. It was a family reunion for Big Ben. It was a rare moment and one not to be repeated, because in January 1990 both Etretat and Oekie died quite suddenly.
Every year there is a jumping show to honour Ben. All the money they raise for it is given to help find a cure for horse colic.
I picked Big Ben for my hero because I always watched him perform on TV and I always thought that he was a gorgeous horse (even though most trainers thought he was too tall or too ugly). Also, when I was younger I wanted a horse just like him. My stepdad's company also sponsored Ian Miller and Big Ben for most of their competitions.