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.
All the major contenders passed the eventing final horse inspection at the Tokyo Olympics and will carry on to contest the show jumping phase in a few hours’ time.
The ground jury (Nick Burton, GBR, Christina Klingspor, SWE, and the U.S.A.’s Jane Hamlin) and vets only failed to accept one horse - Fantastic Frieda, ridden by Poland’s Joanna Pawlak, who had completed the cross-country in 41st place with a refusal and 25.2 time-faults.
The FEI has announced that the Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel has had to be euthanized after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest Cross Country Course during Equestrian Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 1, 2021.
In 2002, at the age of 15, I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Maine while Tremaine Cooper was there building some cross-country jumps. I helped him build a trakehner, not realizing that this day would set the course for my future. A few weeks later he called asking if I could help him at Millbrook Horse Trials. From there I helped Tremaine during most of my school vacations and throughout the summers. After graduating high school I kept at it never looking back. I lived the gypsy lifestyle for about six years going from coast to coast and event to event. In 2013 my wife Kathryn and I settled down in Lexington, Kentucky. These days I spend roughly 60-75 percent of my time on the road preparing events or building private schooling areas. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some really great events around the states and have cultivated many friendships all over the country. In 2019 I was asked to be a part of Team Evans Olympic cross-country building crew. As I write this I am on my third trip to Tokyo. Here’s a day in Tokyo . . .
The British team cemented their gold medal position at the Tokyo Olympics with three magnificent cross-country performances, all clear inside the time. Added to that, their first rider, Oliver Townend, holds pole position individually after the dressage leader, Germany’s Michael Jung, picked up 11 penalties for triggering a frangible device.