Remembering Sandhills Tiger

Sandhills Tiger Hamish Cargill

      Sandhills Tiger about to enter the arena at Burghley in 2011 and demonstrate his left half pass


Tiger died yesterday morning. I'll start at the end of the story, because stories like this deserve to get better, not worse. He suffered a sudden and dramatic organ failure, and was put down while getting the best care from his old friends at Agnes Banks Equine Clinic in Sydney.

He was 18, and still a champion.

I've never written about a horse dying before. All horses are special, but no other horse we've owned has had the same effect on our lives as Tiger. He was there for all the major moments - our first overseas eventing trip to New Zealand in 2007. The character-building drama of Adelaide Four Star in 2008. Rolex, Haras du Pin and Burghley in 2011.

They're all small individual events, but the stories that surround them are enormous. Tiger, with his unquestionable talent, was the catalyst for all of this.

Tiger wasn't an easy horse. He could be a fiery thoroughbred, with a stubborn streak that often showed itself at the worst times. Left half-pass was our Achilles heel for many years - not because he couldn't do it amazingly, but because it presented him with an amazing opportunity to be a prat. He could be in the midst of the most beautiful and balanced movement, and hit the anchors so fast you almost went over his ears. For a while there he introduced it as his signature move, and quite fittingly reintroduced it on the biggest stage at his last international event at Burghley in 2011.

He loved cross-country, and was one of the best gallopers you'll ever sit on. In this environment he was the ultimate eventing machine, and if you could find ten more like him you'd be well on your way to a gold medal.

His jumping style was always different. He didn't so much bend his knees, as spring higher into the air. As the jumps got bigger, he went higher - it wasn't the easiest jump to sit on, so on occasion I went higher too.

Trot-up was always an exercise in survival. For a thoroughbred, he could be the best mover in the field, and would often add to the excitement by showing off his acrobatic skills. No matter how many big three day events he did, and no matter how calm or intense the atmosphere, it was something he never grew out of. I have no doubt that he enjoyed the display.

He was also a jet-setter. Australia. New Zealand. The USA. France. England. Hong Kong. Alaska. Ireland. Tiger touched down, passed through, lived or competed in all of these places. He saw more of the world than most people ever will, greeting people of all nationalities with his trademark grumpiness.

I watched Tiger at his last competition just over a week ago. He looked at his absolute best jumping around 95 centimetres in his same old unique style, providing phenomenal experience to an eventer of the next generation.

In this way, Tiger won't be remembered for winning a four star or a gold medal. He'll be remembered for the experiences he gave to me, and many others.

Life is shaped by many things. Ours have been shaped by this incredible horse.

So thank you Tiger. And goodbye.



Read Hamish Cargill's insights into the eventing world here