Sudden death of leading Canadian dressage horse Orion

| 24 January 2014 8:46 am | 0 Comments
Orion and Pia Fortmuller.

Orion and Pia Fortmuller. © Shannon Brinkman

One of Canada’s top dressage horses Orion has died at the age of 18 after undergoing colic surgery.

Ridden by Pia Fortmuller, the Dutch Warmblood gelding (Jazz x Consul) died on January 19.

Orion and Fortmuller were the sole Canadian dressage athletes competing at the elite level (CDI4* and 5*) in Europe over the last year.

On January 18 Orion showed symptoms of colic and was taken to a vet clinic. He was stabilised with medication, but during the night Orion suffered from another episode of colic and by the next morning his conditioned had worsened to the point that surgery was required. 

During surgery the veterinarian discovered that the colic was caused by a tumor the size of two fists that had cut off the circulation of Orion’s intestines. “When this happens the intestines start digesting themselves and Orion was past the point of saving,” Fortmuller said.

“In less than 24 hours my Orion, who is famous for his zest and fight for life took his last breath and has moved on to greener pastures, but his spirit will live on forever in my heart.

“Orion was still in top form right up to his last day and it is a shock to absolutely everyone how suddenly he has left us,” Fortmuller said.

“Before the surgery began I asked for one last moment with Orion, and when I looked him in the eye, Orion let me know that his time had come. Anyone who spends so much time with their four legged partner knows that over time a connection can develop so strong that words are not needed to communicate. And it was in this moment that I knew that I had to let my team mate, my anchor, go. As I closed my eyes and gave Orion one last kiss I had only one thought that I wanted to share with him, and that is “Thank You”.

Orion and Pia Fortmuller.

Orion and Pia Fortmuller.

Orion and Fortmuller were the sole Canadian dressage athletes competing at the elite level (CDI4* and 5*) in Europe over the last year. Most recently the pair attended the CDI3* Zakrzow competition, held in Poland in November where they won the Grand Prix before moving on to take second in the Grand Prix Freestyle. 

Additionally, Fortmuller and Orion travelled to the prestigious Vienna Masters in Austria, where they earned a top 10 placing against an elite group of international competitors in the CDI4* Grand Prix Freestyle and FEI4* Grand Prix classes. They were also invited to compete at the CDIO5* level during the World Equestrian Festival CHIO Aachen in Germany this past July, where once again, Orion demonstrated his incredible talent and heart, taking the pair to ninth place in the CDI4* Grand Prix Freestyle against some of the best equine dressage athletes in the world.

Fortmuller called competing at Aachen “… a dream come true,” and commented that, “It was an honour to be able to dance down the centerline with Orion in Aachen.”


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