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Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

Posted August 06, 2008 12:01 AM by SavvyExacta

Swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, rowing, and even table tennis are all sports we tune-in to watch every fourth summer during the Olympic Games. How about something different this time – the Equestrian events? The 2008 Olympics will have plenty of them.

Equestrian sports are those that include both a horse and rider (or handler); however, no serious competitor calls them "Equestrian", opting instead to refer to the individual events by their more specific names (see some below). Equestrian sports are the only Olympic category where humans and animals compete together, and they're one of very few events where men and women compete against one another on equal terms.

Three-Day Events (now known as Eventing, the triathlon of equestrian sports) were first introduced to the Olympic Games in 1900 and were restricted to military officers. In 1948, civilians were allowed to compete in any Equestrian event for the first time. Today, medals are awarded both individually and for teams of four horse-and-rider combinations from each country.

Although riders can compete in any number of styles and disciplines either locally, nationally, and internationally, there are only three disciplines recognized at the Olympic Games:

  • Dressage – Horse and rider perform intricate, predetermined movements (sometimes set to music) that look like a dance. Competitors are judged on obedience, overall style, and invisibility of rider's commands. Think figure skating.
  • Show Jumping – Horse and rider negotiate a complex course of approximately 12 fences that can be over 5-ft. high and 6-ft. wide. The pair that knocks down the fewest fences and completes the course in the fastest time wins! Think hurdles with a wacky pattern.
  • Eventing – This combines the previous two elements on a first and last day, with a phase known as "cross country" in the middle (see photo). It's usually a four-mile course of about 20 jumps through fields or forests. These jumps are intimidating, and include logs, stone walls, ditches, or ponds. The team with the fewest mistakes over the three days wins. Think triathlon.

As most people know, this year's Olympic Games will be held in Beijing, China. The Equestrian events, however, will be held at the Sha Tin racecourse, which has undergone $1.2-billion (HKD) worth of renovations thanks to the Hong Kong Jockey Club. (In U.S. dollars, this amount is equivalent to $153-million.)

All major overnight equine competitions such as the Games need basics like stabling and show arenas. Because of this year's unique location in China, however, there are some fancy amenities:

  • Ice making machines to help rapidly cool-down horses after working.
  • Mobile cooling units to help stressed animals immediately after competition (see photo for an example).
  • Rolling box-stalls filled with sand to allow horses to play, relax, and stretch.
  • Flooring made of recycled tires for shock absorption (part of a "green" initiative).
  • Veterinary, nursing, and lab staff of 44 with a full equine hospital.
  • On-site laboratory to test for prohibited substances (and help sick animals).

Sounds good to me! In the wake of recent casualties of horses and riders in the Eventing community, it's hoped that these safety measures and added health facilities will keep the world's top athletes in perfect shape – before, during, and after competition.

Editor's Note: Click here for a schedule of NBC Universal's coverage of equestrian events at this year's Olympic Games.

Resources:

http://www.olympic.org/uk/sports/programme/index_uk.asp?SportCode=EQ

http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=12181&kw=beijing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_Olympic_Games

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-country_equestrianism (photo)

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#1

Re: Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

08/07/2008 12:28 AM

I don't know. I personally have always enjoyed equestrian synchronized swimming.

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#3
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Re: Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

08/07/2008 1:10 AM

vermin:

G'd day mate

Your head is bouncing like you were sitting on a horse while we speak. Very synconized I must say. Hopp along Casidy!

zazzle.com/kysley

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#6
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Re: Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

08/07/2008 6:58 AM

Drill team on horses, which is the same as synchronized swimming but on land, rather than on water is very cool and a challenge! Very neat to get all those horses to cooperate in such close quarters.

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#8
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Re: Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

08/07/2008 9:11 AM

Hmph - you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him rythmic, that has to come naturally...

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Re: Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

08/07/2008 9:15 AM

Actually, with work and training, it can come!

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#2

Re: Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

08/07/2008 1:00 AM

SavvyExacta

The only time I enjoyed it was when I made this abstract representation of the sport. Not very syncronized at first glance but..... I hope I am not breaching copy right showing the olympic rings with out permission. It is one of 12 panels. To see the rest google "zazzle kysley". Does Tibet have an equestrian team? I know they have horses and can ride like the devil! Ky.

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#7
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Re: Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

08/07/2008 7:03 AM

Cool image! No Tibet (I did see that special on kids who race there) - but there are some countries you wouldn't expect. You can see the full breakdown here.

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#4

Re: Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

08/07/2008 3:42 AM

Really I have never considered either the equestrian or the horse riding to be a sport, since it is the horse the one that does the effort (and if it does it bad above it receives some that another blow)...
it is for the same that I understand as in the olympiads there is not not F1, not MotoGP, they are the machines those that do most of the effort. I would propose that the equestrian one should not exist in the olympiads...

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#5
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Re: Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

08/07/2008 6:55 AM

I'm not going to start an all-out argument, but before you say the rider does none of the work, I firmly suggest you try it. Try the posting trot (semi-basic method of keeping rhythm with the horse's two-beat trot gait that beginners are able to accomplish within a few weeks of riding) for five minutes and see how your legs feel - and how out you might be. Or if you were able to complete it at all. If that seems too easy, try it with no stirrups (the things you put your feet in). That is the riders' version of doing sprints!

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#10
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Re: Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

09/29/2008 11:40 AM

I agree... and if you happen to make it as far as SavvyExacta describes (posting trot, no stirrups), then try jumping and navigating the horse... Try some of the cross country courses where some people have actually been left paralized. Once you do all that, then tell me it's not a sport and the rider doesn't do anything. Many trainers say the riders who are most prepared are those who take Pilates. And pilates works muscles. It's true without a great horse, you cannot make it to the Olympics, BUT that shouldn't take away the athleticism of equestrians.

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#11
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Re: Equestrian Sports at the Olympic Games

09/29/2008 1:06 PM

Great answer, Guest! As you probably know (but I'll mention for the benefit of those not involved with horses), a much-admired rider, coach, and "mentor" of recent times is George Morris. He's written several books (one considered the "bible" of jumping) and actually put out a video series called "The Science of Riding".

In order to do more than just sit on a horse and go, you've got to understand how a horse and rider pair work together mechanically, asking and responding, giving and going.

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