Sometimes I get called upon by not-so-tech-savvy friends for assistance in completing tasks that usually wind up being simple and mundane, yet forgivably misunderstood by said victim of modern technology. I lucked out recently, when a friend asked me to copy old VHS tapes onto shiny new DVDs. The very first tape on the top of the stack just so happened to be a recording of the 1989 World Cup featuring the legendary Canadian showjumping combination, Ian Millar and Big Ben.
Bred and born in Belgium in 1976 to vertically challenged parents, Big Ben grew to a towering 17.3 hands. He dominated the showjumping scene in the 1980s and early ’90s until he was officially retired in 1994. This particular recording that I was busy dubbing to DVD showcased Ian and Ben’s seemingly effortless success defending their world championship title. Not only did he defend his title, but Ben also won each of the three days of competition. He posted a big fat zero for most of the show, dropping just one rail in a jump-off.
I’m a big Big Ben fan. I had the Big Ben Breyer. His poster was front and center on my bedroom wall (next to Biko). I admit I clucked at the TV during his winning round. That big horse seemed to be able to jump clean from any distance, and every ground covering stride shaved off valuable seconds on the clock. It was thoroughly enjoyable spending the afternoon watching a legend in action. I should have thought to make a copy for myself…
Some of Big Ben’s other accomplishments include: three consecutive Olympic appearances (’84, ’88, ’92), individual and team gold at 1987 Pan Ams, six Spruce Meadows Derby wins, two du Maurier International Grand Prix wins, and countless other Grand Prix titles. In 1996, Ben became the second non-human athlete inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame; the first was Thoroughbred Northern Dancer.
Check out Big Ben and Ian Millar at the 1986 Hamburg Derby. They might have been a force in Eventing too, eh?