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Huaso (horse)

Breaking the record

Huaso (1933 - August 24, 1961) was the horse that, ridden by Chilean Captain Alberto Larraguibel, set the high-jump world record on February 5, 1949, by jumping 2.47 meters (8 ft. 2 in.), in Viña del Mar, Chile, one of the longest-running unbroken sport records in history (60 years as of 2009.)

  • Markings: Star, forehead
  • Height: 16.1 hh (165 cm)
  • Breed: Thoroughbred
  • Breeding: By Henry Lee; out of Trémula
  • Riders: Gaspar Lueje & Alberto Larraguibel

Huaso was born in Chile in 1933, and was originally named Faithful. He started as a race horse, but never managed good results because he was too nervy and more than somewhat unruly. After six years of total failure, the horse was purchased by Chilean Army captain Gaspar Lueje, in the early 1940s, who thought he could be trained for Dressage. When Faithful was just starting his training he suffered an accident, impaling himself on the back quarter, and almost having to be put down. The horse eventually recovered, but acquired a slight limp in the left hind, which effectively put an end to any chances in that discipline.

So, as a last option he was moved to Show jumping. Faithful still retained his potency, but nonetheless, he was still too nervy and difficult to control, so he wasn't showing any promise in that area either. One afternoon, while he was being trained riderless on the enclosure, he simply bolted and jumped over the surrounding wall, which was over 2 meters high. Casually, he was spotted by an Army horse master who happened to pass by, and who right away decided to purchase and destine him for high-jump.

The horse was then taken to the Army Cavalry Academy, in the city of Quillota. There, the name was changed to Huaso and he was handed to Captain Alberto Larraguibel for training. He trained the horse for over two years specifically for the world record. He first targeted the national record, then the south-American and finally, the world one.

File:Record salto.jpg
Another angle of the jump

On February 5, 1949, both rider and horse were finally ready. The attempts were held at the Coraceros Regiment in Viña del Mar, Chile. On the words of Captain Larraguibel:

On the first try, I miscalculated the distance and allowed the horse to refuse. If I had then applied the whip, the horse would had become nervous, because an animal understands when it's being asked to perform above his capabilities. In the second jump, I must have made a mistake of a centimeter or so, because Huaso passed the hands but touched with the belly and the hinds, and knocked down the obstacle... there was only the third and last attempt left. I recalculated again, and in the precise moment we flew... The most difficult moment was the apex of the jump. My eyes were about 4 meters above the ground and I had the sensation of falling head first. My slightest tremor would have been felt by Huaso; who then would have left his hinds behind and we would have crashed together, but we went over. The moment seemed to last forever. I didn't hear a single shout and thought that something had gone wrong, but I couldn't hear the obstacles falling either...[citation needed]

When they broke the world record at 2.47 meters (8 ft 1¼ in), Huaso was already 16 years old, quite old for a result of that magnitude. After the record, the horse was retired and never ridden again. He roamed freely until he died naturally on August 24, 1961, at the age of 29. Huaso is buried on the same Cavalry Academy where he spent his last years.

The High Jump world record should not be confused with the Puissance world record. The Puissance is a series of bricks built as a wall rather than angled poles as used in the high jump. The word 'Puissance' means 'power' in French. The current indoor Puissance world record stands at 7ft 10 inches and was set in 1991 in Chaudfontaine, Belgium by German rider Franke Sloothaak on Leonardo.


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