Sapphire

Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman/USEF Archive
(1995 – 2014)
Owned by Blue Chip Bloodstock, McLain Ward, Tom Grossman
Inducted: 2013

Photos

Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman
Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman
Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman
Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman
Ernest Hemingway once coined the phrase, "courage is grace under pressure" - a phrase that came to perfectly describe the performances of Belgian Warmblood mare, Sapphire.

From the moment longtime rider McLain Ward first tried the mare in 2002, he knew she was courageous. Little did he know that his courageous mare would be so victorious. Shining in a sport dominated by boys, Sapphire, owned by Tom Grossman and Blue Chip Bloodstock, jumped clear through Show jumping's glass ceiling and into the hearts of many.

Still a rookie when she was part of the gold medal-winning team at the 2004 Olympic Games, Sapphire, or "Sara," would become one of the most well-known horses in recent show jumping history.

In 2005, Ward and Sara earned another team gold as part of the 2005 Samsung Super League Team, and in 2006 they claimed the team silver at the FEI World Equestrian Games. Sapphire wrapped up 2006 by winning the Rolex/United States Equestrian Federation National Show Jumping Championship, and those top placings just scratch the surface of her impressive year.

In 2007, Sapphire forever made history by winning the $300,000 CN Worldwide Florida Open Grand Prix, CSI*****, the largest purse class ever offered in an outdoor Show jumping event in the United States. When the stakes were high, Sapphire was at her finest.

Less than two weeks later, she was second in the Budweiser American Invitational in preparation for the FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas. Sapphire's bank account continued to accrue when she stepped onto the Devon Horse Show grounds and won the $75,000 grand prix by more than three seconds. Sapphire's performance also helped Ward win the Richard E. McDevitt Style Award, which is awarded annually to the rider who exemplifies the best style of riding during the Grand Prix of Devon.

Sapphire then hopped on a plane to Europe and continued jumping well at the CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival and the Rotterdam CSIO*****. She next flew to Calgary to jump in the Spruce Meadows Masters where she was a member of the Nations Cup team. Her numerous wins throughout 2007 earned more than $220,000 in prize money and the title of American Grand Prix Association (AGA) Horse of the Year.

"Her record this year was certainly one of her best," Ward said at the time. "It always amazes me how she keeps coming through in the pressure moments. She never has an easy class, and she is a big day horse whom I hope will continue her record of success for years to come."

And that she did. After having won Olympic team gold in 2004, Ward and Sapphire went back and did it again at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The same year the pair won first place at the American Invitational and the $100,000 President's Cup at the Washington International Horse Show.

With determination and immaculate planning, Sapphire continued to build on her legendary career with an impeccable 2009 season. Perfect preparation for the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Final meant three six-figure wins at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), highlighted by the $400,000 FTI Finale Grand Prix win. Sara delivered an incredible five clear rounds to place second at the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals, and from there she returned to the hallowed grounds of the Devon Horse Show where she'd previously won the Grand Prix and did so again.

Her biggest win was still to come. After a successful European tour representing and picking up two wins at the Hampton Classic, she headed north of the border where she had the U.S. National Anthem played twice in her honor at the Spruce Meadows Masters. She stormed to victory in the $1 million CN International Grand Prix, beating reigning Olympic champ, Hickstead, by 3/100ths of a second in a jump-off for the ages.

The list of wins is seemingly endless for Ward and the incredible chestnut mare. In 2010 she added wins at the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties, New York, the Longines Grand Prix of La Baule (France), the Grand Prix of Rome and again at the President's Cup.

In March 2011, Sapphire's career was put on hold when she suffered from a strained ligament and was given a full year to recover. The mare was just returning to the show ring when Ward suffered a broken leg, putting her comeback further on hold. While their past accomplishments were enough to long list them for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Show Jumping Team, it was decided that Sara's competition days were over.

In an emotional and heart-warming ceremony at the Devon Horse Show, where Sapphire had won multiple times before, Ward retired the remarkable mare. Following her retirement, Ward wrote: "While it is the end of her incredible career, I refuse to be sad. Sara is retiring healthy, happy and at her best. I am so grateful that fate chose me as the one to be in her life, be her rider and partner as she blazed her trail into show jumping history. There will be times I will certainly miss her being by my side when the pressure is on, but when I think of her all I have is incredible memories."

"Our entire Castle Hill family and every person she has touched has lost a great friend. Thank you Sara not just for all the dreams you made come true but simply for being who you were," said Ward on her passing in 2014. "You always will be my champion in every way. Godspeed, good friend."