Olympic Silver Medal Horse Dies of Colic

American Eventer Allison Springer had no sooner added Lionheart to her eventing barn than he had to be euthanized due to complications from colic surgery. Springer announced the sad news on her Facebook page on January 18. The gelding underwent surgery just five days ealier on January 13.

Initially, Lionheart’s prognosis was good following surgery for an impaction in the small intenstine. The Olympic event horse, who used to be ridden by British star, William Fox-Pitt, did not have any portion of his intestines resected (removed), and the team at Palm Beach Equine (Wellington, FL), headed by Dr. Bob Bruise and Dr. Kathleen Timmons, felt positive about his prognosis. After his condition declined, a team of experts consulted on the case. During exploratory surgery, the on-site team found that circulation to the small intenstines, cecum, and large intestines had been compromised. The team, believing Lionheart had no chance at survival decided with Springer to euthanize him.

When ischemia (restricted blood supply) occurs, oxygen and nutrients cannot reach the tissues. For healing to begin post-surgery, restoring blood supply is of utmost importance, or else tissue death results. Dr. Brusie explained that the case of Lionheart was a “very unusual” vascular accident similar to a stroke.

Lionheart was thirteen years old, and Springer had high hopes for the horse she had only had for weeks. “This was one of the most challenging and heartbreaking weeks of my life,” said Springer. “Lionheart dealt with this as the true champion he was, never giving up. In the end, when the time came, there were no more options. I’m very appreciative of the tremendous veterinary effort made to save Lionheart.”

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