Eric Lamaze: Why Hickstead is my Horse of a Lifetime

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    (CNN)Together they rode into the equestrian history books, securing showjumping gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

    No wonder legendary stallion Hickstead is Eric Lamaze's horse of a lifetime.
    "For me he was the best horse in the world," Lamaze tells CNN Sport. "I'd even go as far as saying that."
      "He got it; he understood what he was here for; he understood the name of the game. There were times that I even felt he wanted it more than I did.
      "He came out into the ring and grew. He made himself this giant horse that just refused to lose.
      "There were times you'd think he couldn't do it in terms of ability but he'd do it from the heart."
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      Lamaze and Hickstead also secured a silver medal for Canada in the team jumping competition at the Beijing Olympics nine years ago.
      But while it was undoubtedly a summer to remember, it wasn't always plain sailing for horse and rider.
      "He was terrible, he was very difficult," Lamaze remembers, thinking back to Hickstead in his youth. "I came close to abandoning him a few times."
      "He's my horse of a lifetime but he came close to being a horse I returned!"
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      Thankfully they stuck by one another through thick and thin -- amassing over $3 million in prize money and winning major Grand Prix events in Geneva, Aachen, La Baule and Rome.
      "He brought me some of the biggest wins any rider could dream of," says Lamaze, a rider for the Hamburg Diamonds on the Longines Global Champions League.
      "He was just one of those horses. You looked in his eye and knew."
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      Sadly the fairytale of Lamaze and Hickstead is marred by tragedy.
      In 2011, having completed an almost flawless round during a FEI World Cup event in Verona, Hickstead collapsed suddenly, dying from a ruptured aorta aged 15.
      Those in attendance that day could only gasp in horror, and Lamaze is still visibly shaken six years on.
      "It's something that stays with me forever," says the Canadian rider. "The last memory that I have is that he stumbled, collapsed and made sure I was safe and put aside. That was it, as sad as it was."
      But Hickstead's legacy lives on, with the horse remembered as one of the sport's true greats.
      "I never realized how many fans Hickstead had -- never mind me," says Lamaze. "Spruce Meadows had an unbelievable amount of fans coming the day after he passed.
      "He was just that much of a star and it really touched the horse community."