‘A true champion in all ways’: inspirational Olympic dressage horse dies aged 13

  • The 2021 Olympic ride of Portugal’s João Torrão, Equador MVL, has died at the age of 13.

    The Lusitano stallion, owned bv Monte Velho Equo Resort, Marc Lebbe and Katarzyna Gontarska, died following emergency surgery for a cervical injury.

    “Following a cervical injury, Equador had an emergency surgery undertaken by one of the world’s leading surgeons in France, but despite all the efforts, he hasn’t survived the post-surgery,” said a statement from Diogo Lima Mayer, director at Monte Velho.

    Equador burst onto the international grand prix scene with João in 2019, blazing a trail for Lusitanos in the sport at top level. The pair of them were based with Carl Hester during the summer that year, and competed very successfully on the British circuit, including winning the grand prix special at Hickstead CDIO3* in July 2019. They were selected to ride for Portugal at the European Championships in Rotterdam that year, and made history by helping a Portuguese team gain Olympic qualification.

    In 2021 Equador and João competed for Portugal at the Tokyo Olympics, finishing 29th in the grand prix with just over 70%, and 23rd in the grand prix special. This was to be their final competitive appearance.

    Equador and João Torrão “have developed a partnership difficult to express in words,” said Diogo Lima Mayer. “They have written history for Portugal and the Lusitano breed, breaking records and opening new horizons for our country in dressage. Their history has inspired us and the whole equestrian community worldwide.

    “Equador has left no one indifferent with whom he crossed paths, impressing with his adorable character, golden heart and fighting spirit. He was simply the perfect horse to handle, a true champion in all ways. His spirit stays with us in the hearts of his multiple offspring. His soul will be forever present in our minds, this horse was one in a million.

    “We will honour his legacy and his memory by continuing the outstanding path he started for our stud-farm in international dressage.”

    Charlotte Dujardin and Alice Oppenheimer are among the top names to have paid tribute to Equador on social media.

    “He and João were such a magical partnership,” said Alice.

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