Last year, Canadian team veteran Ian Millar was forced to end his bid for an eleventh Olympic Games when his top horse, Dixson, developed hematomas in his sinuses.
“It’s a very unusual condition in horses,” explained the world record holding, 10-time Olympian. “They’re very veinous, so when he jumps around they bleed and cause great discomfort.”
Over three years, the hematomas were treated with formaldehyde injections, then surgically removed—twice. When they returned once again, it threatened to end the 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood’s career.
“It looked like they couldn’t be operated on at one point,” said Millar. “It looked like it could be career ending.”
Renewed hope came by way of a creative surgeon, who devised an experimental procedure to extract the root of the troublesome hematomas.
“At Cornell, there’s actually a procedure named after him called the Dixson Procedure because it was developed specifically for him,” revealed Millar.
On Friday, all those efforts paid off. The veteran pair beat a field of 97 to capture the $35,000 World Cup Qualifier at the CP Palm Beach Masters CSI3*in Wellington, Florida. It’s an emotional victory for the 70-year-old rider.
“It’s quite personal and quite emotional,” said Millar. “At one point, you thought you might never be able to ride this horse again and he’d never be able to do this, and then he gets out there and it’s fun. It’s an extremely rewarding week. We live for these horses.”
The hope is that this latest surgery has solved the issue once and for all.
Millar and Dixson will return on Sunday to contest the FEI Longines World Cup. The Canadian rider made history as the first to capture back-to-back World Cup titles on his famed mount Big Ben (1988 and 1989). He’s not aiming for this year’s Final in Omaha, Nebraska.
“That was never in our plans,” said Millar. “Although I probably should do it again, huh? It’s been a while…”