This dressage Olympian quit Rio to save her horse

Olympic equestrian Adelinde Cornelissen proves that some things are more important than winning a gold medal.

Adelinde Cornelissen with Jerich Parzival in action during the finals of the World Cup Dressage in the Netherlands. Cornelissen finished in second place. ROBIN UTRECHT | AFP | Getty Images

Equestrian Adelinde Cornelissen loves dressage, but she loves her horse, Parzival, the animal friend that helped make her career, more. Earlier this week, the Dutch athlete, 37, put the chestnut gelding’s health above winning another medal, and withdrew from the Olympics in Rio.

Cornelissen’s dear companion was too weak to compete after recovering from what vets believed was a bug bite of some kind. Even after the horse’s swelling and fever subsided, Cornelissen knew Parzival was not well enough to perform his best, and might suffer more from the physical exertion. Shortly after entering the arena, Cornelissen withdrew with a salute in order to give Parzival the rest he deserved.

Netherland’s Adelinde Cornelissen pats Parzival during the CHIO World Equestrian Festival in western Germany

Netherland’s Adelinde Cornelissen pats Parzival during the CHIO World Equestrian Festival in western Germany. DAVID HECKER | AFP | Getty Images

Cornelissen posted the heartbreaking story on Facebook, as well as updates for fans to show how Parzival has been doing since the illness.

Cornelissen, who has won Olympic silver and bronze medals in addition to World and European gold medals, may have another chance at the Olympics, but probably not with Parzival. As CNN pointed out, at age 19, the horse is unlikely to compete again. According to the horse magazine Equus, the average horse lives between 18 and 22, but can live up to age 40. But no matter what age he lives to, it’s clear that with a friend and co-worker like Cornelissen, his years will be happy ones.

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