Have you been watching the Olympics? I’ve been spending hours glued to the TV because…equestrian events! Thank you NBC Sports! So far they’ve had the sense to air good portions of the three equestrian events that take place at the Games: eventing, dressage and show jumping. If you’ve never watched equestrian events, here’s a quick primer for what you can see, and a few fun facts:
Currently, equestrian events are the only ones where men and women compete against each other as equals.
The three equestrian sports at the 2012 Olympics are dressage, “Grand Prix” or show jumping, and eventing (also known as three-day eventing). Each sport has a separate team of riders and horses.
In dressage, horses perform a series of movements known as a “test.” The first two rounds, the movements are in compulsory order. The third round is “freestyle” and set to music. Dressage has been called “horse ballet.” In show jumping, horse and rider must complete a course of approximately 15 fences within a set amount of time. Penalties are assessed if poles are knocked down, a horse refuses a jump, or if the horse and rider do not complete the course within the time allowed. Eventing takes place over several days and includes three components—a dressage test, a cross country course, and a round of show jumping. (The dressage and jumping aspects are completed in the same manner as the regular dressage and show jumping, but at a less demanding level.) Eventing is the triathlon of horse competitions, and tests the horse’s fitness and the rider’s all-round skill.
In each of these sports, team and individual medals will be given out. Two hundred athletes will compete for the six gold, six silver and six bronze medals at the 2012 Olympics.
Riders must be a minimum age of 18 to compete in eventing or show jumping, and 16 to compete in dressage. The oldest member of the
Olympic team is Karen O’Connor, a 54-year-old eventer competing in her fifth Olympics.
The youngest is 18-year-old Reed Kessler, part of the show jumping team. And
the oldest athlete at the entire 2012 Games competes in dressage: Japanese
rider Hiroshi Hoketsu, age 71.
Equestrian events began in 682 B.C. when a four-horse chariot race took place at
Until 1952, only male cavalry officers were allowed to compete in equestrian events.
Lisa Hartel, of Denmark, won a silver medal in dressage at the 1952 Games, despite being paralyzed from the waist down by polio and having to be lifted on and off her horse.
Also in 1952, Foxhunter, the horse that carried Colonel Harry Llewellyn to Great Britain’s only gold medal of the Games (in team show jumping), received a congratulatory telegram from Winston Churchill.
The horses that compete in the Olympics have their own passports. The passports don’t have pictures, but line drawings indicating the horse's identifying features. They also contain a list of the horse’s vaccinations.
Check online or with your local TV stations if you’re interested in taking a peek at the world of equestrian sports (or click here for the best schedule I've found). Eventing finished earlier this week, dressage is taking place now and show jumping starts Saturday. Here’s a quick YouTube video from the eventing competition to whet your interest:
What’s your favorite Olympic sport?