Today, the prestigious World Equestrian Festival kicks off at CHIO Aachen in Western Germany (July 14-23 — show jumping competition begins July 18th). Six decades ago, legendary German show jumper, Hans Günter Winkler and his super-mare, Halla, galloped through Aachen’s Hauptstadion Stadium to win the prestigious Grand Prix of Aachen. The unstoppable duo were the ones to beat in show jumping during the 1950s and 60s, winning an astonishing 125 jumping competitions together.

With Winkler aboard, the 16.2-hand bay mare blossomed from a difficult and unsuccessful steeplechaser into a show jumping golden girl, becoming the first and only horse to ever win three Olympic gold medals in the sport. Although it took a few years, multiple riders, and different disciplines until she found her niche, Halla and Winkler became show jumping royalty and were Germany’s most popular athletes during the 50s and 60s.

After winning back-to-back World Championships in the lead up to the 1956 Olympics in Stockholm, Winkler and Halla were the favorites for the top of the medal podium. Despite suffering a severe groin injury after the first round, Winkler was determined to not let his country and his mare down. Pushing through the pain, he completed yet another faultless course, winning gold individually and for Team Germany.

After retiring from show jumping in 1960, Halla began a new career as a broodmare. Although she had eight foals, none were as successful as their Guinness Book of Records-holding mother. Halla passed away in 1979 at the ripe old age of 34.

In 1986, before his 60th birthday, Hans Günter Winkler officially hung up his own tall boots, riding a lap of honor at Aachen, his favorite show grounds. Today, Winkler is a renowned author, founder of the sports agency, HGW Marketing, and a member of the German Equestrian Federation’s Jumping Committee.

In today’s #FBF, a look back at the life and times of this one-of-a-kind duo:

Photo credit: Kroon, Ron/Anefo via Wikimedia Commons.