What a Year!
August, 2004) -- Most event fans know the facts: At the 2004
Athens Olympics, Windfall finished in 12th place individually
and was the third best score of the five US competitors, thus
contributing to the team score that eventually won the Bronze
Medal. How that came about and what it means to him and us
is what might be more interesting to know, and likely will
not be reported elsewhere from the same perspective.
After an excellent cross country run at the USET Final Outing
at the NJ Horse Park in mid-July, Windfall pulled a gaggle
of rails in the under-lights stadium test, for no apparent
reason. What almost no one knows is that the stadium arena
was a thin layer of footing over concrete and was painful
(even frightening) for some horses to jump on.
The next day at Gladstone, Windfall was footsore as could
be and rumors abounded about his "lameness" and
disqualification. That bothered me, since the selection committee
and all their vets were right there on site and directly involved
in what happened that day and the next. They chose Windfall
for the team. Why that happened is pretty obvious - they knew
more than the rumor mill and believed he was able to compete
and to succeed. He was.
Off he went to England, trained hard for three weeks right
with the rest of them, gallops and all, and was sound when
he flew to Athens on Aug 10. We followed him from England
a few days later.
On dressage day he was completely fine and put in a darned
good test, which was not scored as highly as we would have
liked or thought right, but that is what judges are for. We
trust them and leave them to their own consciences. The gap
of eight percentage points among the three judge's scores
for Windfall set us to thinking about things.
On cross country day he ran near the middle of the order
of go, had an excellent run, came in at precisely the planned
time: slightly over one second ahead of optimal time. Of the
74 horses, only about 14 or 15 managed double-clear runs.
He was initially just fine, but by the time he got back to
the barn was quite uncomfortable, due to some sort of "pull"
or bruise in his left forefoot. This was not related to any
pre-existing issue at all. Extensive FEI-legal vet work through
the night and the next day resulted in some improvement, but
a very marginal situation for the noon jog. He failed the
first try and barely (yes, ever so barely) passed
the second. I said to Darren, "What about the jumping
now?" He said, "One thing at a time. He will do
what he can. The team is counting on us."
Most of you saw what happened next. What you did not see
was that he was lame at the canter on soft grass in the warmup.
Panic! Fear! But as he eased up to the gigantic stadium itself,
heard the noise of thousands of people, saw the jumps and
other horses, Darren says he literally felt him transform
himself into the warhorse his ancestors made him. The exciting
ambiance of the Olympic Games is really somewhat analogous
to what a battle situation might have been. Windfall went
soundly over the course, barely (and I mean BARELY) ticking
two rails off their cups, both at the start of combination
jump series, finishing the team competition as the third best
US pair, just a fraction of a penalty point behind Amy and
Then we were absolutely crushed to find that by less than
three penalty points, the US team failed to medal. One rail,
just ONE RAIL would have made the difference. Even just a
reasonably better dressage score would have done it. Augghhhhhhh!
We were literally crying in our beers back at the stableyard
canteen an hour or so later, when Sandy Phillips ran out of
the show office with beams of light blazing from her smiling
face, sotto voce shouting, "We won the Bronze! They ruled
that Bettina Hoy had faults!" We all went rejoicing off
to the individual stadium jumping a little later, only to
have the whole thing crushed down again by a simple notice
on the scoreboard, midway through the evening jump, "Amended
scores. US finished fourth." Augggggghhhhh and double
The Germans could have been a bit more serene about their
"victory," but weren't. All along the facts were
on our side in the issue. Most know that Bettina Hoy passed
through the starting line twice after the bell rang for her
first stadium jump and thus should have been penalized at
least the time penalties for the seconds from the first passing
through to the end of her ride. It was so bittersweet to see
the fabulous medal ceremony, knowing that it was wrongly placed
and would likely be changed again, but depriving Darren, Amy,
John, and Julie of their deserved moment of glory. No way
to replace that famous moment, ever. It especially hurt to
think of the twenty years of hard work we had watched Darren
put in, 24/7/365, all aimed at this exact day -- a podium
opportunity at the Olympic Games! Sometimes vicarious pain
is worse than the real thing.
Windfall pulled two rails in his second round of jumping
too, leaving him in that 12th place. But what he did in the
process was show us how really deep is the bottom of his heart.
Think about the pain of a sprained ankle in a high-hurdles-racing
human who chooses to run anyway. That is what W endured, and
he tried his heart out. Look at the tapes some day of those
two rounds he put in on August 18th and see for yourself.
They were beautiful, even-footed, flowing, willing, and very
nearly perfect. He tried so hard I can hardly type these words
without getting choked up thinking about how brave he was.
This is what "character" and "nobility"
are all about in describing a great horse. He is a great horse,
A small dose of bute the next day helped him ride back to
England easily enough, and he arrived a few days later back
in the States. The diagnostic veterinary work is not finished
quite yet, but it appears there is no bone injury, just some
sort of strain in the fetlock or foot. Some time off is in
order and will be given. Everyone is talking about Aachen
now and how important Windfall is to that planning. We will
From all of us in the Windfall camp, thank you for your
support and for your faith in this horse.
-- Timothy Holekamp
2004 Windfall news
Named to US Olympic Eventing Team!!
Read an article by the USEF here.
Wins Rolex 2004!!
Read an article by The Chronicle of the Horse here.
| Windfall | Halimey | Songline | About
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and Cheryl Holekamp
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Columbia, MO 65201
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