Schomberg, Ontario – Monopoly, the horse Beth Underhill rode at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, died on November 16 at the age of 32. Monopoly earned more than $1 million in prize money throughout his illustrious show jumping career, and was inducted into the Jump Canada Hall of Fame in 2008.
Underhill and Monopoly enjoyed one of the longest partnerships in show jumping sport. Underhill first began riding Monopoly when he was 10 years old, and the pair enjoyed their last major grand prix victory, the $100,000 Treatwells Grand Prix held at HITS Ocala, FL, in 1999 when Monopoly was 20.
Over the course of their 10-year competition career, Underhill and Monopoly were stalwarts of the Canadian Equestrian Team. Partnered together by trainer Terrance ‘Torchy’ Millar in 1989, Underhill and Monopoly made their Canadian Show Jumping Team debut the following year on the fall indoor Nations’ Cup tour comprised of Washington, New York, and Toronto’s Royal Horse Show.
“For me, it was such a special accomplishment to make the Canadian Equestrian Team; that had been my goal since I was a little girl,” said Underhill. “That first year I was riding him was very special. Not only had I obtained a lifelong dream, but we really grew together as partners. We went double clear in our first Nations’ Cup in Washington, and then came home to win the Nations’ Cup in Toronto at the Royal.”
Following their successful Canadian Equestrian Team debut, Underhill and Monopoly represented Canada at the 1991 Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba, winning both team and individual silver medals. At the 2011 Jump Canada Hall of Fame Gala, Underhill and her teammates Sandra Anderson, Danny Foster, and Ian Millar were inducted in recognition of their achievements at those Pan American Games.
Over the course of their career together, Underhill and Monopoly traveled around the world, competing at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, and the 1994 World Equestrian Games in The Hague, The Netherlands, where they finished 14th individually. While the pair enjoyed major grand prix victories throughout North America, Spruce Meadows was Monopoly’s favourite place to compete. In 1994 and 1996, the pair claimed the Canadian Show Jumping Championship title and, in 1992, placed third in the $680,000 du Maurier Ltd. International (now the $1 million CN International) at the Calgary venue. In 1996, having finished second the previous three years in a row, Underhill and Monopoly finally won the $100,000 Shell Cup Derby.
“I swear, by the end, I didn’t even have to steer,” laughed Underhill of competing in the Shell Cup Derby, where the course remains the same each year. “He loved the crowd at Spruce Meadows and he loved that course! Even though he had competed around the world, Spruce Meadows truly was where he felt the most at home.
“He was a sensitive horse; you had to earn his trust,” she continued of Monopoly’s character. “Once he trusted you, he would go to the ends of the earth for you and try his heart out. He always tried his best.”
Underhill and Monopoly’s partnership was as remarkable for its longevity as for its success.
“He really made my career, he started everything,” said Underhill, who became the first woman to win the Canadian World Cup League in 1993. “He was my first grand prix horse and allowed me to ride on the team for the first time. He won his last grand prix at the age of 20. For a horse to be jumping at that age was remarkable. There wasn’t another horse like him.”
Of the impact Monopoly had on her life, Underhill reflected, “It was in 1989 when I first started riding him, so he was in my life for 22 years. When you think of all the things that happen in your life over 22 years, he was there throughout the highs and the lows. I shared so many aspects of my life with him. He truly was a member of my family.”
Bred by Mr. J.A. Cottle, Monopoly was born in New Zealand in 1979. A registered Hannoverian, Monopoly’s sire was Witzbold while his thoroughbred dam was Suzy by Abridge Member. Discovered by Canadian Olympian Jay Hayes in New Zealand, Monopoly was imported to Canada by the Ierullo family, and was donated to the Canadian Equestrian Team in 1993. After 10 years competing at the grand prix level and earning more than $1 million in prize money, Monopoly was retired at Beth Underhill Stables in Schomberg, ON, where he continued to be a large presence in the barn.
“He did everything on his own terms,” said Underhill. “Even in his retirement, he was still a very busy horse. He stall was located in the center of the action. He liked to put his head completely out of his stall so he could nip at the dogs and boss the other horses around as they moved throughout the barn. He felt he had an important job in the whole mechanism of how the stable ran. He enjoyed being top horse in the barn.
“He had a routine that could not be changed – his feeding routine, his turn-out routine – he had to go to the same paddock every day,” continued Underhill, noting that although Monopoly allowed her pet goat to visit him from time to time, he did not like having any other turn-out friends in his paddock. “He was a loner. He liked his own space, he had his own way of doing things, and he didn’t like change at all! He made it quite clear how he liked things to be.”
Even at 32 years of age, which is well past the average life expectancy of a horse, Monopoly was very active and fit.
“I had been watching him carefully as he got older, and he was still a sound, healthy horse,” said Underhill. “The day he died, he went out to the paddock and was trotting around. They were bringing him back into the barn when he had a heart attack. He was a remarkable horse, and a remarkable character. Monopoly was very special, and I feel grateful that I was able to have him in my life for as long as I did.”
Monopoly was cremated and will be buried at Underhill’s farm beside her other memorable grand prix mount, Altair, who died in 2006 at the age of 18.
“I would really like to thank the Ierullo family for the opportunity to ride the horse and to keep Monopoly though his retirement,” acknowledged Underhill. “They were a big part of his life and his career. I was riding for Torchy at the time and he put the horse in my direction, which was a nice thing to do considering he was still competing himself at the time. Marion Atkinson was his groom throughout the majority of his career. Pippa Stanley and Jerome Caron made his retirement exceedingly special. He knew his people and he knew who he felt comfortable with. I don’t think there are many horses that enjoyed their retirement as much as Monopoly did. He was an integral part of our lives.”
Photo: Beth Underhill and Monopoly winning the 1994 Canadian Show Jumping Championships at Spruce Meadows. Photo credit – Clix