Belinda Trussell’s longtime dressage partner Anton (Antaeus x Melit), a Sachsen-Anhaltiner gelding owned by Robyn Eames and Mark Trussell, has passed away at the age of 24.

The pair made their Grand Prix debut together in 2009 in Blainville and spent many years competing in North America and Europe, racking up many wins and countless podium finishes. An unfortunate serious injury suffered in 2011 leading up to the 2012 London Olympics took Anton out of contention and competition for two long years. “Little did I know he would recover so well and earn a place on the Rio Olympic Team with personal best scores,” Trussell remarked after their successful Rio Olympics.

Trussell and Anton were members of the Canadian team at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and 2010 and Caen in 2014. At the latter Trussell was Canada’s highest-placed individual in dressage, finishing 22nd. In 2015 she and Anton competed at the Pan Am Games in Toronto where they helped the Canadian Dressage Team earn the silver medal and placed 5th individually. In 2016, the pair racked up numerous wins at Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington and broke the Canadian record for the highest score to date in a Grand Prix Special with 75.529%.

Trussell returned to the Olympics at Rio in 2016 aboard Anton, which would be their last major games together, after which Anton was retired from international competition.

Trussell, who runs Oakcrest Farms in Stouffville, Ontario, posted this touching video tribute on her Facebook page, saying in part:

“Anton taught me so many life lessons. He taught me to be present. He demanded every time before I would get on to give him a hug. I could not get him to walk up to the mounting block until I gave him a hug. And I know in my mind, that was him saying to me, ‘Okay, Belinda, I want you to just block out everything else in the world. It’s time to focus on me.’

“I was a shy competitor, and he was such a strong competitor. He had so much confidence. After his injury break, I was back at Global and I was riding in the CDI, in the Grand Prix. I rode really conservatively because I was worried about him. And I had such a feeling from him coming out of that ring, how disappointed he was in me! He’s like, ‘Come on, push me. Let’s do this.’ He loved competing.

“He taught me that dreams can come true. And he just gave and gave. But most of all, he taught me the special bond between human and equine and how deep that runs.”

“I hope I’m a better human because of you and the beautiful lessons you taught me. Rest in peace, my beautiful boy.”