‘You’re always in my heart’: Olympic horse dies six months into retirement

The Olympic dressage horse Toots has died suddenly aged 19, just six months into his retirement.

The Jazz son, who competed successfully under the Dutch rider Imke Schellekens-Bartels and then Japanese rider Akane Kuroki, had moved to spend his retirement with Kaiko Krahnke in Colorado, US.

“He was spending a second life in the USA with a friend of mine, having a great time there. When he got on a trailer to go out, he suddenly fell down and then died,” said Akane.

Toots competed successfully under Imke Schellekens-Bartels until 2015, winning at the Addington CDI3* in 2012 with nearly 80%. The KWPN gelding was sold to Akane Kuroki at the end of 2015 and the pair went on to represent Japan at the Rio Olympics in 2016. They also won team gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018, the horse’s final competition.

“I have lots of memories and experiences with him. He took me to the new world – the Olympic Games in Rio, Asian Games in Jakarta, Olympia in England and so on,” said Akane. “I have learned a lot of things from him and he brought me happiness.

“You are always in my heart and I’ll never forget having precious time with you, Toots. I can’t believe it. I can’t stop crying.”

Imke described the tall gelding as “our big friendly giant”.

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“For 10 years he was the greatest friend of mine, my mother and everyone here at the stable, the sweetest horse you can imagine,” she added.

“I’ve been allowed to experience wonderful years with him and made a lot of good memories. He was an incredible teacher and friend for Akane Kuroki and he spent his ‘old days’ with Akane’s friend Keiko Krahnke. Unfortunately she has only been allowed to enjoy him for six months.”

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