Riding accident claims wife of Hans Günter Winkler

updated February 26, 2011

The American-born wife of legendary Olympic showjumper Hans Günter Winkler has died following a riding accident.

Debby Winkler riding Sakrus HG. © Julia Rau
Debby Malloy Winkler, 51, fell from her horse on Friday after a training session.

She was rushed to the University Hospital Münster for medical care, but could not be saved.

Winkler was the daughter of Vivien G. Malloy, owner of the Edition Farm horse farm in New York's Hyde Park in the Lower Hudson Valley. A successful jumping rider, Winkler went to Europe to train with Nelson Pessoa in 1976. In 1986, she went to Warendorf to train with Hans Günter Winkler. They married in 1994.

Debby Winkler's best result was second place on Sakrus HG in the Grand Prix of Frankfurt in 1998.

The FEI has offered its condolences to Mrs Winkler's family, to the German equestrian community, and in particular to her husband Hans Günter Winkler.

Winkler was a close friend to FEI President HRH Princess Haya, who said, "There is a comfort in knowing that horsemen and women who move on from our world, straight from the saddle, have done so on the terms they would have wished for. And yet I cannot find the words to justly pay tribute to Debby. She was so quiet in her ways, so kind and accepting, so humble and gentle that one would have thought she would live forever.

"Many of us get into this sport in pursuit of personal greatness and sporting ambition. The race of people like Debby who get into it, and stay with it, for the love of the horse in its absolute purist form, are rare. Rarer still are the ones who strive to conquer the philosophy of the sport and the art form. That was Debby. In her, horse sport has lost one of the greatest human beings and horsewomen it ever had.

"My heart goes out to Debby's beloved husband, and to the Malloy family, for a wife and a daughter who quietly touched so many people in the most profound way, with eternal elegance and dignity. Rest in peace, Debby. We know, beyond all doubt, that every horse in heaven is waiting for you."

Hans Günter Winkler, 84, retired from competition in 1986. In his career he had won five Olympic gold medals, one silver and one bronze, and was world champion in 1954 and 1955. He is the only equestrian in any discipline to compete and win medals in six different Olympic Games. He is best known for his partnership with the great mare, Halla.

The memorial service for Debby Winkler will be held on Tuesday 1 March, at 2pm at the German Olympic Equestrian Committee in Warendorf.