Leon Thijssen and Tyson during the BMO Nations Cup.

Upon arriving at Spruce Meadows on Sunday, September 11, we were greeted with very troubling news. On Saturday night at the Nations Cup dinner, the Dutch Chef d’Equipe, Sven Harmsen, suffered a heart attack on his way to to the stage to give a speech. On Sunday morning, we were told that he was receiving treatment at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary.

Now, to my great sadness, this arrived in my mailbox Wednesday night:

Sven Harmsen

(SPRUCE MEADOWS, Calgary, AB): It is with heavy hearts that Spruce Meadows has learned of the passing of Dutch Equestrian Team Chef d’ Equipe Sven Harmsen. Mr. Harmsen passed away today at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary, Alberta, Canada as a result of a severe heart attack suffered during the Spruce Meadows “Masters”.

A career horsemen, Sven rode for the Netherlands in the 1980s and 90’s and has served as a national team coach and chef d’Equipe at the pony, junior, young rider and national team level.

At the 2012 Spruce Meadows “Masters”, Sven lead the Dutch team made up of Jur Vrieling, Leon Thijssen, Harry Smolders and Jeroen Dubbeldam to the bronze medal in the BMO Nations’ Cup on Saturday, September 8th. Later that day, he suffered a major cardiac arrest from which he was unable to recover.

“This is a very sad time for all of us,” said Spruce Meadows president Linda Southern-Heathcott upon learning of Mr. Harmsen’s passing. “Sven was a wonderful man, gifted horseman, and true leader in our sport. He will be missed. Our hearts and condolences go out to the entire Dutch equestrian family and especially to his family and partner Annemieke.”

The Dutch riders competed on the final day of the Spruce Meadows “Masters” in a show of respect and dedication to their team leader. Each posted a top 20 result; a result that would have pleased their team leader.

Sven Harmsen was 51.

Our deepest condolences go out to the entire Dutch equestrian team, to his family, and anyone touched by this talented man.