My human is busy these days watching the Olympics. Most people know the names of recent equine Olympic stars and who the most decorated human Olympian is. However, I thought it would be appropriate to find out who the most decorated EQUINE Olympian is. Any guesses?
First hint, it’s a mare (but not Touch of Class). She is German, but not one of the popular warmblooded breeds we see today in the show ring. One of this 1945 mare’s parents was a French trotting mare (unknown breed), and the other a Standardbred Oberst stallion. Originally she was picked out by the military to be a service horse but proved very difficult to ride, like some other mares I know. Eventually Halla (yes, that’s her name) was partnered with Hans Günter Winkler in 1951. Together this pair would work their way up from regional victories to the international level, winning back-to-back World Championships before heading to the 1956 Stockholm Olympic games.
Still not an easy ride, Halla took off early to the second to last fence and unseated her rider. Winkler suffered a pulled groin muscle. Most riders would have been unable to ride the second round, but Germany’s team would have been eliminated if Halla didn’t return. After having been administered pain medication, Winkler rode back into the arena. While her rider screamed of pain over each fence, Halla turned in a clear round and won not only team gold but also individual gold for Hans Gunter Winkler.
But the mighty Halla wasn’t finished and would return for the 1960 Olympic games in Rome. Halla contributed once more to the 1960 German jumping team’s gold medal efforts. With three gold medals over two Olympics, the cross bred mare became the most decorated equine Olympic athlete in history. Her rider, Hans Gunter Winkler, would win a total of seven Olympic medals (five gold, one silver, and one bronze) over the course of 5 Olympic games.
If you would like to see the video of Halla’s winning ride: