Three Olympics, nine senior championships, and a lasting legacy: top dressage stallion dies aged 31

  • The great dressage stallion Björsells Briar, who competed at nine senior championships during his spectacular career with Sweden’s Jan Brink, has died aged 31.

    The Magini son, out of Charis (by Krocket), was owned by his breeder, Hans-Yngve Göransson, who set out to breed a top competition horse with an emphasis on all-round ability.

    “Briar is living proof that a good sport horse can do both. He would have been able to have a career as a world-class jumping horse, too, if that was the choice,” Hans-Yngve told H&H for the Legends of the Sport feature in this week’s issue (20 January).

    Jan prepared him for stallion licensing on the flat, with Olympic showjumper Rolf Göran-Bengtsson producing him for the jumping.

    The decision was made for Briar to pursue dressage. With the help of Kyra Kyrklund and sponsor Åke Björsell, Jan developed the talented youngster into a sporting legend, featuring on senior championship squads for the best part of a decade. Their achievements included representing Sweden as part of the team at three Olympics – Sydney, Athens and Beijing – finishing in the top 10 individually at the 2004 and 2008 Games.

    “Briar is a legend and for that he will always be remembered,” said Jan.

    “For me he was so much more. We were a perfect match mentally and we knew each other inside out. He taught me a lot on horsemanship, and with care and proper management we have experienced and achieved so much together – memories that will last a lifetime.

    “I am thankful that I got to be such a big part of his life and grateful that so many people including my own kids got to know him and understand his greatness.

    “He has made a great impact on the world of dressage and he will be missed.”

    The pair contested more than 250 grands prix, won four European medals (one silver, three bronze), as well as competing at two World Championships and eight World Cup finals. They also scored the coveted Grosse Preis at Aachen in 2005 – the same year that Briar rose to world number one – and won seven Swedish national titles.

    Briar stepped down from competition in 2009, living with Jan for several more years before retiring to spend his last 11 years with Hans-Yngve.

    He also leaves behind a legacy as a breeding sire.

    Read Björsells Briar’s remarkable story in full in the Legends of the Sport series in the current issue of Horse & Hound (20 January).

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