Sep 25, 2007

A Horse You Should Know - Halla

When I was a little girl, I had a ratty old 'Encyclopedia of the Horse' that I was obsessed with (hence the blog). Anyway, there was this little black and white photo of a tall, gangly horse jumping a huge fence. And I became enamoured of that photo. I mean, the horse's name was Halla, for starters. And most showhorses that I knew were named very long and fancy names like "CFS Foxxy Lady" or some such nonsense. But more importantly, in my little 8-year-old eyes, was the fact that Halla was a mare. I never remember hearing about lots of famous, cool mares then. I only ever heard sorta crappy things about them. No one wanted one. (I still never do and ALWAYS end up with one.) But there was this gangly, handsome (yes, I love that word for girls) mare who was a 3-time Olympic gold-medal winner. Lots of places say that she is the only horse ever to have done that. But I never fully trust what I read on the Internet. I just pass it along.

Anyway, today we celebrate Halla. I don't know how many people know of her now, but she was something pretty special in the 1950s and 60s. You don't really even find that much out there on the Internet about her. But I will always remember my obsession with that totally unremarkable photo in my ratty book.

She wasn't really that pretty and she comes from unknown breeding. I say this because I very clearly remember my book telling the 8-year-old me that she was a Trakehner (I never forget a horse-related fact). But Wikipedia is trying to tell me that she was half-trotter and half-Standardbred. And yet another site is trying to me that she is a Hessen (which I totally didn't even know was a legitimate breed. Warmbloods confuse the hell out of me.) But whatever....She was meant to be used for the Military, but was considered too difficult (translation: a mare) and ended up with the rising star of Hans-Gunter Winkler. It became a match made in heaven. Clearly this was a guy who had a way with the ladies.

Halla won back-to-back World Championships in showjumping by the time they got to their first Olympics in 1956. Of course, now is the part of the story where our hero overcomes the odds to win anyway and I shall not disappoint. During the first round, Halla took off early and launched Hans high out of the saddle. He landed back down into it very heavily and pulled a groin muscle. If he withdrew the German team would be eliminated, so he opted to ride through great pain of course, they won. Screw groin pain. Those Germans are eat groin pain for breakfast. They won the team and individual gold medal. And four years later Halla and Hans helped the German team win gold yet again. In all, they won 125 jumping competitions. And as I said, she is supposedly the horse with most gold medals won in the Olympics. She is supposedly listed in the Guinness Book of Records. I have not seen said listing. But it's probably true. The internets told me so. But I have a pretty good question: If this is true, why is she not better-known? And why is she not a mascot for the sport in general? It's a great story - a difficult mare turned champion!! Hey Disney, this is a movie just waiting to be made. Well, maybe nix the groin pain. Wait, I don't really mean that. I'm all about the groin pain.


ladybird6339 said...


Like you, i fell in love with Halla
and of course her legendary Rider(H.G.W). I am from Germany and
Hallas Story is just so heartwarming. There will NEVER be another horse with the Spirit and Love for her Rider and the Sport like

Thank you for reminding me of her and Hans Guenter Winkler.

Anonymous said...

I learned of Halla at an early age through the Breyer horse model of her - the horse that bore a striking resemblance to my own...gelding. Nice to see your story so graciously representing her on the internets.

Anonymous said...

Hey there, I know this Blog is heaps old, but hey, I thought I give it a shot... Actually you find a lot about Halla on the net. Most stuff though is in German. She is known as "Halla die Wunderstute" "Halla the miracle mare" and I think Disney didn't catch her, cause she was German... Okay so was Snowwhite or Sleeping Beauty, but hey ;-)

Oh and she DOES get her kudos post mortem. In Warendorf (where the German Equestrian Sport center is located) a street is named after her and she a Bronze statue there.

Dunno if this will still be read but anyway. Sorry for my lousy English as you might have guessed: I am German,

Have a good one and cheers!