California Riding Magazine • December, 2011

Flying Changes

Ben York, DVM

Veterinarian and backcountry horseman Ben York passed away in mid-October. According to Trail Rider Magazine, Dr. York became the second person to ride the entire 2,638-mile Pacific Crest Trail in "one shot," a feat he accomplished in the summer of 1992. He attended UC Davis veterinary school and led mule pack strings into the Sierra Nevada mountain range in his younger years. He sold his veterinary practice in 1986, the article continues, and became very active in the Backcountry Horsemen of California and the Pacific Coast Trail Association. His wife of 52 years, Adeline Wright, preceded him in death.

Donna with her son Aaron and his wife Mallory, and her daughter Kristen and her husband Bob at Christmas 2009.

Donna Vale

Donna Vale, a long-time friend and employee of Horse Shows In The Sun (HITS) died peacefully on Nov. 7, surrounded by family and friends. "Donna Vale was the most valuable employee in the history of the company," says HITS president Tom Struzzieri. "Her dedication and work ethic will not be replaced. For over 27 years she gave tirelessly for anything and everything related to HITS. Her passing is a great loss and she will be dearly missed."

The native of Dallas was one of the first employees Tom hired and she is credited, among many things, with helping HITS to become the industry leader in horse show management. She had a long and thriving career that included many personal riding and training achievements. In addition, Donna had the great fortune to share her love of equestrian sports with her two children, Aaron and Kristen, who have found their own successes, both in and out of the ring.

Hickstead, the sensational Jumping stallion that Eric Lamaze (CAN) rode to individual gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong collapsed and died in Verona, Italy. Photo: FEI/Kit Houghton.


Just after completing a World Cup jumping class in Verona, Italy on Nov. 6, Eric Lamaze's 2008 Olympic gold medal partner Hickstead collapsed and died in the arena. A preliminary post mortem identified an aortic rupture, resulting in heart failure for the 15-year-old stallion.
HRH Princess Haya, FEI President, added her condolences to those that have poured in since news of the horse's death. "Hickstead really was a horse in a million and my heart goes out to Eric and everyone connected with this wonderful horse. This is a terrible loss, but Hickstead truly will never be forgotten. We were very lucky to have known him."

Hickstead went 22nd of 39 in the Verona class and had finished the course one fence shy of a clear go. After the devastating incident, the show ceased briefly while stunned riders and spectators devoted a moment of silence to the great horse and those who worked with him.