The close Relationship between a Horseman and his Mount
Hans Günter Winkler celebrates his 81st birthday today. The German horse rider holds many Olympic titles in show jumping - the fruit of an extraordinary understanding between man and beast, such as with the bay mare Halla. The two of them graciously and efficiently jumped from one success to another. It is therefore impossible to mention one without the other in a sport where success is achieved as a twosome.
Gold in pain
For their first Olympic Games in 1956, the rider and his horse did not need to travel to the other side of the world. Though the Games were held in Melbourne, the equestrian events were not organised by the host city owing to a law obliging foreign horses to spend six months in quarantine. The IOC thus entrusted the organisation of the equestrian events to the Swedish city of Stockholm.
The most remarkable event in the career of the duo, who already held several World Championships titles, occurred in Stockholm. Winkler injured himself in the groin in the first round of show jumping when he badly negotiated a jump at the end of the course; if he did not compete in the second round, he risked elimination - not only his own, but also that of the team. But Halla was there and didn’t let him down: the mare cleared all the jumps faultlessly despite the physical handicap of her rider. Germany took the title – both individual and team – making the duo famous.
Several horses and one man
In Rome in 1960, Winkler and Halla formed a team for the last time at the Olympic Games. They finished in fifth place in the individual show jumping. Nonetheless, Germany’s victory in the team event allowed them to return from the Eternal City with a gold medal.
Various horses succeeded Halla, allowing Winkler to participate in four other editions of the Olympic Games where he systematically shone in the team show jumping event. In Tokyo in 1964, he rode Fidelitas taking another gold medal. In Mexico City in 1968, he took the reins of Enigk, winning a bronze medal. In Munich in 1972, Winkler was carried by Torphy, and Germany took home another gold. At 50, the tireless rider grabbed one last Olympic success: a silver medal in Montreal in 1976, again with Torphy.
Equestrian sports link the fieriness of the animal with the control of the rider. A difficult union between two beings that are opposite, but, despite everything, complementary. A union which makes the event so spectacular and thrills the spectators. Both specialists and the general public are kept on tenterhooks by the suspense and risk-taking involved in the show-jumping discipline. So thanks and well done to Hans Günter and his horses for the spectacle they gave us for many years, and happy birthday!
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