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Biography of the Month
 By mosquito   •   10th Dec 2009   •   5,003 views   •   8 comments
Welcome to the first in our regular series of featured horses! Each month I’ll bring you an entertaining and informative biography of one of the most inspirational horses in history. This month, we kick off with what could be the best showjumper of all time…Boomerang? The diminutive Hickstead Derby winner? Milton? The big grey wonderhorse and showjumping millionaire? No…this month we’re going to talk about the horse to win the most Olympic showjumping gold medals ever… Halla.

Many of you won’t remember Halla. Born in Germany in 1945, at the climax of the Second World War this gangly bay mare was never meant to be a showjumper. In fact, her pedigree is a mix of American and French trotting horses! But Halla was fast and she could jump. This skinny awkward mare soon reached 16.2 hands, and although no one ever said she was pretty, there was already something special about her. She was sent to try out steeplechasing, and was so fast that the German Olympic committee decided to try her out at eventing, but nobody could quite seem to get the best out of her.

The trouble with Halla was her attitude. She quickly earned a reputation for being intractable. She had several riders, because no one wanting to stick with her for long. She didn’t seem to like anyone, and if she didn’t like you, she’d make sure you soon knew about it. For several years, it didn’t look like Halla was going to get along with anyone.

Then, in 1951 when Halla was six, she met Hans Gunter Winkler. Hans was an up and coming young star on the showjumping circuit, but most of all, he knew how to handle a horse like Halla. He could see that this was a horse that didn’t like to be told what to do. He knew that she had talent, but to get it out of her was going to take patience and a lot of compromises!

Hans and Halla soon worked out how to handle each other. They quickly got noticed, picking up two consecutive world championships to get selected for their first Olympic appearance. Throughout their partnership Hans respected the fact that Halla was a difficult and sensitive mare. It was not uncommon for ‘change-horse’ events in international show jumping at that time, where riders would swap horses for different rounds. Hans got a reputation for withdrawing from some of these big events, because he didn’t feel Halla wanted to be ridden by anybody else that day!

Hans and Halla really rose to fame with an extraordinary performance in the 1956 Olympic Games in Stockholm. They set off in the first round, going easily clear until the second to last fence. A split-second breakdown in communications let Halla take off too early, throwing Hans into the air. Thankfully, he landed back in the saddle, but in doing so he tore a muscle deep in his leg. Hans was in agony – they just managed to clear the final fence, and were through to the final round.

Hans could barely sit upright, let alone guide Halla round the course. But he knew he had to try, or they – and the German team - would be out of the Olympics. Hans was helped into the saddle, and without having even walked the course, he and Halla set off for the final round. Hans couldn’t help Halla at all the best he could do was try not to interfere with her jumping, and hopefully give her a clue as to where the next fence was. But the years they had together, building up a partnership based on mutual respect and trust, all paid off. Halla jumped the round clear, finding her own take off distances, judging her own strides, and making her own decisions. Hans simply held on and told her where to go. The result? Individual and team Gold for Hans, but most of all for Halla. Their performance remains the most amazing and exhilarating round of Olympic showjumping ever.

The story doesn’t end there. Hans and Halla returned to the Olympics for another gold in Rome in 1960, and won a total of 125 showjumping competitions, and Halla remains even today as the horse with the most Olympic gold medals. After the 1960 Olympics, Halla was soon retired. She settled in Germany as a broodmare, where she had 8 foals…although none of them went on to stardom. Hans went on to ride in 4 more games, winning seven medals in total (five golds), and is the only rider ever to win medals at six different Olympic Games.

Halla lived to the ripe old age of 34, before she passed away in 1979. She is honored in Germany with several streets named after her, and a life size bronze statue at the German National Stud, and Breyer made a model horse of her in the 1970s. The German Studbook even retired her name – no horse can be registered in Germany with her name, because there will only ever be one Halla.

Horse News More In This Category:  Horse Stories      Horse News More From This Author:  mosquito
gypsy  
wow that horse is amazing i wish she was still alive
  Dec 10, 2009  •  3,424 views
 
Happy Stables  MOD 
Thanks for the information on the wonderful horse, Halla. It goes to show what patience and alot of work will do. : )
  Dec 10, 2009  •  3,444 views
 
PythonPonyPalaces  MOD 
Thank-you for sharing this biography about this great champion! I can't wait to read more! Great idea!
  Dec 10, 2009  •  3,428 views
 
toffeelola  
wow talk about an excellent horse!
  Dec 11, 2009  •  3,425 views
 
Greenacre Ranch  
Thats amazing! Wow, I'm inspired. Thank you so much for sharing this, i have never heard of Halla but hey, its never to late to learn. I'm looking forward to the next one...*Stands a wait by stable door*
  Dec 11, 2009  •  3,475 views
 
Foxlaire  
wow... that's SO cool. Halla sounds like an awesome horse!
  Dec 11, 2009  •  3,491 views
 
Milly  
Thanks for the information, have never heard of Halla, but now i have :D will have to research more on her
  Dec 11, 2009  •  3,408 views
 
All That Jazz  
Gorgeous horse!
  Oct 7, 2011  •  3,419 views
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