Sparrow’s Nio (Grange Finn Sparrow X JB), a 15.3-hand 17-year-old Connemara/Thoroughbred gelding owned and ridden by Alexandra Sacksen, collapsed between fences while on cross-country in the Advanced division at the Morven Park Fall International Horse Trials on Saturday, October 3. In their 10 years spent competing together in eventing, Sacksen and Nio went all the way up the levels, competing at the prestigious Kentucky Three-Day Event three times.
Sacksen first met Nio on her parents’ farm when he was a yearling, and she reconnected with him when his owner contacted her about possibly purchasing him. In the summer of 2010, Sacksen took Nio to his first event at the Novice level. By the same time next year, Nio and Sacksen were competing at the Preliminary level, and he completed his first CCI* (now CCI2*-L) at Midsouth in the fall of 2011.
Nio completed his first Intermediate event in the summer of 2012, progressing to the CCI2* (now CCI3*-L) that fall. In the fall of 2013, Nio and Sacksen placed 11th in their first Advanced, followed that up with a second-place finish in the Advanced at Morven Park, and were named the USEF CCI2* National Champions after winning the CCI2* at Fair Hill International.
In 2014, Nio earned a seventh-place finish at the Fair Hill International CIC3* (now CCI4*-S), returning to the same venue in the fall for his first CCI3* (now CCI4*-L), where he was 27th. The following year he and Sacksen made their first trip to Kentucky for the CCI4* (now CCI5*-L), finishing in 36th.
Nio and Sacksen continued to compete successfully at the Advanced/three-star (now four-star) level in the spring of 2016 before Sacksen took some time out of the saddle for the birth of her first child. In 2017 they were ninth in the CIC3* at Pine Top in February and 24th in the CIC3* at Carolina International before making their second trip to Kentucky.
In 2018, Nio and Sacksen competed around Northern America at venues including Carolina International, Fair Hill International, Jersey Fresh, and Bromont. Following their 26th place finish in the CIC3* at Jersey Fresh, Sacksen was awarded the Philippa Humphreys Memorial Sportsmanship Award.
Nio and Sacksen returned to Kentucky for the third time in 2019, this time finishing in 30th place and jumping clean on cross-country. In the fall, they were 13th in the Adequan USEA Advanced Final at the USEA American Eventing Championships, they finished second in the CCI4*-S at Morven Park, and they capped off their season with a 13th place finish in the CCI4*-L at the Ocala Jockey Club.
Together, Nio and Sacksen completed 66 USEA recognized events, 23 at the Advanced, four-star, and five-star level. The competed in 26 FEI competitions, earning seven top-10 finishes. Nio was known by his friends and fans as a powerhouse who loved nothing more than a good gallop across the country.
The USEA sends our deepest condolences to Sacksen and all of Nio’s connections and fans.
USEA podcast host Nicole Brown chats with Interim Eventing Chef d’Equipe and Team Manager of the U.S. Eventing Team Bobby Costello about the Silver Medal Performance put forward by the U.S. Team at the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships.
There is still time to experience the long format of three-day eventing this year, by competing in a fall USEA Classic Series Event! The USEA Classic Series offers long-format eventing at the Beginner Novice, Novice, Training, Modified, and Preliminary levels, and there are still a few left on the fall calendar in various Areas.
This story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Sidelines Magazine.
I have had many young horses in my time, and one thing I’ve learned is that it’s rarely the perfect, easy baby that becomes the next superstar. In fact, I’ve always considered it a positive to have the well-behaved youngster throw a little bit of attitude my way, as I believe that it takes fight to become a great event horse.