Olympic eventer Lionheart euthanized due to colic complications

Lionheart and William Fox-Pitt
Photo: Henry Bucklow/Lazy Photography via Wikipedia

The American eventing community lost a bright star on Saturday when Allison Springer’s top horse, Lionheart, was euthanized after complications from a colic episode. He was in the care of the Palm Beach Equine Medical Center (PBEMC) after surgery when the decision was made to put him to sleep.

The 12-year-old gelding first showed symptoms of colic last Monday, Jan. 13. Veterinarians performed colic surgery that day and were able to resolve an impaction in his small intestine. Springer reported on Facebook that the surgery was relatively minor and that the vets were optimistic that he would have a quick and easy recovery.

When Lionheart didn’t recover as expected, the veterinary team made the decision to perform exploratory surgery. According to veterinarian Dr. Bob Brusie, the horse had suffered a rare set of circumstances in what had originally seemed to be a simple impaction.

“The horse had excellent care and there was nothing in the history that would explain the vascular accident that comprised the small intestine and then over time went on to overwhelm the cecum and large bowel,” Brusie said. “This sort of vascular accident, similar to a stroke, is very unusual in my experience.”

According to a statement released over the weekend, Springer spent most of the past week by Lionheart’s stall at the PBEMC.

“This was one of the most challenging and heartbreaking weeks of my life,” said Springer. “Lionheart dealt with this as the true champion he was, never giving up. In the end, when the time came… there were no more options. I’m very appreciative of the tremendous veterinary effort made to save Lionheart.”

William Fox-Pitt introduces Lionheart to the fans in this 2012 video


Lionheart was a member of Great Britain’s silver-medal winning team at the 2012 Olympics with rider William Fox-Pitt. In November 2013, Springer along with the Team Lionheart Syndicate LLC purchased the horse with the aim of qualifying for this year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Springer is best known for her successful longtime partnership with her own Irish Thoroughbred, Arthur, the second-place finisher at the 2012 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.


  1. Oh my gosh that is sooooooo sad!!!!!! :'( :'(
    I still am not really understanding WHY they put him down?? Why couldn’t they just have waited to see if would get any better? And even if he wouldn’t be able to compete couldn’t he still be a pasture pet??

  2. How sad!!! I am a true horse lover and past event rider…LionHeart was a really wonderful horse and it always shocks me a little when even the best cared for horses can colic! I hope the owners/riders all the best of luck in this awesome sport that requires really great horses with the HEART of a LION!!


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