Famous equestrian commentator dies at 88 - video

January 13, 2012

Germany's "voice of equestrian sport" Hans-Heinrich Isenbart died on Christmas Day at the age of 88.


Hans-Heinrich Isenbart
Isenbart was born on February 5, 1923 in Vienna, Austria, into a family that had a passion for horses going back generations. As a young man he had wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and become an army officer, but his Jewish origins meant that career was denied to him in the Germany of the 1930s and 40s. He later studied law and passed his exams to become a riding instructor.

After World War 2, he worked as a journalist for German broadcaster NDR, covering political and economic issues, and later took over sport coordination at ARD in Munich, where he remained until his retirement in 1987.

One of the highlights of his career in television was doing the live commentary on the equestrian competitions at the 1956 Olympic Games in Stockholm. From then on he was present at nearly all the major equestrian events, including one of the biggest and most popular horse shows in the world, CHIO Aachen in Germany.

For almost 60 years, "the voice of equestrian sport" continued to commentate at events and speak at seminars and congresses. He wrote several books, including "The Beauty of the Horse", "The Imperial Horse: The Saga of the Lipizzaners", "Horses and Riding (Questions answered)", "Birth of a Foal", and "A Foal Is Born". He also made a film on horses.

Hans-Heinrich Isenbart's funeral was held on January 10 in the Niedersachsenhalle indoor arena in Verden in Germany where, during his long career, he had been a Master of Ceremony at many gala evenings and had commentated numerous horse shows. Nearly 700 mourners attended the emotional service.

Hans-Heinrich Isenbart will always be remembered for his great eloquence, but also for his life-long dedication to horse welfare. His famous words at the end of every single broadcast were, "Und vergessen Sie die Pferde nicht!" (And don't forget the horses!)

Commentary by Hans-Heinrich Isenbart of Hans Günter Winkler winning gold on Halla at the Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1956. In the first round, Winkler pulled a groin muscle at the penultimate obstacle, after his mare took off early and threw him out of position. Despite the pain, Winkler decided to ride in the third round, as the German team would be eliminated without him. After he was given tranquilizers, Winkler found that he was comfortable sitting, but riding was difficult and painful. Any drugs that could reduce the pain enough to make him comfortable in the saddle would also reduce his mental capacity, and therefore he was only given black coffee before his ride to try to help reduce his dizziness and double-vision. However, his great mare, Halla, sensed that her rider was not right, and performed the entire course clear with almost only steering from Winkler, and their performance won them the individual gold.