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bump there. Windfall obviously preferred more of a show jumping style on cross- country, never touching the rails. It took us a while to get to that level and it took him a while to gain confidence in me. We had spotty success in the beginning but it quickly grew into a phenomenal partnership.” As an added speed bump, the American public initially had mixed reviews about the athletic black stallion. “I think that the spectators were immediately stunned by his presence,” Dr. Holekamp says. “He is charismatic; that is the word for him. But he is also given to head-tossing at a full gallop, which appears to be disobedience but is actually just more stallion behavior. He tended to frighten spectators at cross-country almost as much as he thrilled them in dressage and show jumping.” “One thing that most people did not understand then and perhaps now is the delicate balance between control and speed in a virile equine stallion, such as this one,” he continues. “At most horse trials, Windfall was being schooled at high speed, not toward going faster but toward optimal control by the rider. That must be there to win. Sometimes he would win the dressage and have enough time penalties on cross-country to place, but not win overall. People tended to say he was a ‘typical Warmblood,’ not fast enough to do the sport at the upper levels. We knew for sure that was wrong and Darren saved the speed for when it counted.”

An American Icon

With the Holekamps’ continued support and Darren’s training, Windfall settled into his new job and lifestyle. He began to have greater competition success which earned him a following from the eventing community. In 2001 and 2002, Windfall started to win through the Advanced level. The turning point in Windfall’s career came in 2003 during the Pan-American Games, held in Elkton, Maryland at the Fair Hill International CCI***. “He won the individual gold medal of the Pan-

American Games, despite the fact that he was competing as an individual; he wasn’t selected to be a part of the U.S. Team,” explains Dr. Holekamp. “This was a truly vindicating moment and resulted in hours of celebration in the stall tents with Captain Mark Phillips and others who were helping Darren and Windfall reach that goal.” With the Athens Olympics just months away, Team

Windfall headed to the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in April 2004 with their sights set on victory. But this event would present a new challenge to everyone competing: the short-format three-day event. The absence of phases A, B and C of cross-country

day left many riders and trainers scratching their heads. Roads and Tracks (Phases A and C) and the Steeplechase

28 March/April 2010

“...of all those who essentially made the time on cross-country, the fastest to recover normal vital signs was Windfall.”

(Phase B) had been in place since eventing began. Now, with land at a premium and other issues of horses’ career longevity, the Olympic Committee and the FEI made the decision to run only the phase D (cross- country) in international competition from the Athens Olympics forward. Many eventers were upset about this decision, but Darren embraced the changes in the sport

and managed to come away a winner from the first short- format event in the Rolex’s history. “I feel as though Windfall was slightly jilted, as that was the first running of a CCI****, in the world, in the short format,” Darren says. “You couldn’t help but feel that there was an attitude of, ‘well, that wasn’t a real four-star,’ yet looking back, that was quite a feat. We, the riders and the trainers, hadn’t quite figured out how to ride the short format course. Many people were saying that they were hitting a wall at eight minutes. I went around on my first horse, who had never been tired a day in his life, and right around eight minutes, he went ‘umm…I think I’m tired…’ I had to nurse him around the rest of the course.” “An hour or two later, I took that experience and applied it to Windfall,” Darren continues. “I gave him a short warm up and then I dismounted. My groom was looking at me like I had four heads and I said, ‘You know what? We’re just going to have our own 10-minute box (in

Windfall and Darren place 12th individually at the 2004 Olympics

in Athens. Photo by

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