Jan 31, 2024

In Memoriam: Bendigo

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Ema Klugman and Bendigo. USEA/Leslie Mintz photo

The USEA is heartbroken to share the passing of the 22-year-old Saddlebred/Thoroughbred cross Bendigo (by Refuse to Lose). Bendigo was owned by Jeni Klugman and self-produced by U.S.-based Australian rider Ema Klugman to the five-star level.

Ema and "Ben" first made their USEA debut at the Novice level in 2013. The pair worked their way through the levels and made their FEI debut at the then CCI1*, now two-star, level at The Virginia CCI and H.T. in October of 2014. Ben had 18 FEI starts across his career, which includes his five-star debut in 2021 in Kentucky.

Ema Klugman and Bendigo competing at the MARS Maryland 5 Star. USEA/Leslie Mintz photo

After his retirement from upper-level competition in 2021, Julie Bigham, a student of Ema’s, took on the ride, and Ben gave Bigham two wonderful seasons competing at the Training and Modified level. The pair even competed at the 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (Lexington, Kentucky) and finished in the top 15 in the USEA Training Amateur Championship.

Ema shared on social media that Ben had undergone emergency colic surgery a few days prior to his death but suffered complications during his recovery period. She penned the following tribute online on her social media profiles:

“We lost our beautiful Bendigo to surgery complications. I am not often wordless, but it is hard for me to describe what it's like to have him gone. He took me to the top of the sport and gave so many people joy (although not many dressage judges!). I won't forget the feeling he gave me, especially across the country, and I will do my best to remember the infinite lessons he taught me. More recently, he shared those lessons with so many others, and it made me so happy to watch "Professor Ben" loving his job. He was the most generous creature I have ever met.
Ben, I hope you clink a glass with Packy. With the two of you watching, we have no excuse not to do you proud.”
USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo

The USEA wishes to share our deepest condolences to Ema, Bigham, and all of Bendigo’s supporters.

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