Equestrian Sports in the Olympics
 By Winniefield Park   •   25th May 2016   •   2,069 views   •   1 comments
Equestrian Sports in the Olympics

Equestrian sports have always been a part of the Olympic games. In the earliest incarnations, chariot and mounted races were part of the games. When the spirit of the Olympic games were revived in 1900, three different official equestrian contests were held: long jump, high jump and stadium jumping. Two other non-official competitions were held in conjunction with the 1900 Olympic games: mail coach (four-in-hand driving) and hacks and hunters.

The equestrian competitions disappeared until 1912 and team competition was introduced. Since then, few different sports that have been part of, or have been considered for the official Olympic competition. Currently there are three sports: Eventing, show jumping and dressage. The Paralympics features para-equestrian dressage. All of these are also FEI sanctioned sports.

Over the history of the modern Olympics, several sports have gone by the wayside. Of the three that were part of the first modern Olympics, only show jumping remains. Polo made a brief appearance, but like modern day decathlon, it was not considered an equestrian sport, just a team sport played on horseback. Vaulting too, was part of the 1920 Olympics, but has since been a demonstration sport at the 1984 and 1996 Olympics. Skijoering made a brief appearance as a demonstration sport at the 1928 St. Moritz Winter Olympics in Switzerland.

In the early modern Olympics, only members of the military were allowed to compete in official competition. But, in 1900, two women’s names appear on the lists of those participating in the demonstration sport of hacks and hunters. Elvira Guerra came from a Russian circus family. She competed at the Paris Summer Olympics for Italy. Her riding skills were honed in the circus ring, where she is in one instance described as a ‘ballerina horse rider’. She is likely to have ridden side-saddle in the hacks and hunters competition which is somewhat like a modern day equitation test, walk, trot, canter and over jumps. A postcard of the day shows her mounted aside on a fine boned, high stepping horse.

The other woman, who competed for France is identified in the records under the name of Moulin, we can only speculate about. Perhaps she came from the same type of background as Mme Guerra.

It wasn’t until 1952 that women were allowed to compete in the Olympic equestrian events. At this time too, civilians were allowed to compete. This coincides with the disbandment of the U.S. Cavalry in 1948 and the phasing out of mounted military units everywhere.

Even the existing equestrian Olympic sports have changed. In jumping, the scoring system has gradually evolved with time and penalty points being the main focus. The style of jumps have changed too. Early jumps were simply standards with a single rail. It wasn’t unheard of for a horse to try to duck under, rather than jump over higher jumps.

Dressage freestyles were added in 1996 and are popular crowd pleasers. And, eventing has changed. Early eventing was developed as a way to test the suitability of military mounts and riders. The early competitions included a ten minute dressage test, steeplechase and an endurance test of 28 miles called roads and tracks that included natural obstacles to negotiate and jump.

Polo, endurance riding, and reining have supporters eager to demonstrate their sports at future Olympics. Others would have the equestrian sports removed from Olympic competition altogether. What sport would you like to see at the Olympics. Or, do you think horses don’t belong at all?
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Valkyrie   MOD 
What I like about horse riding is that men and women compete on completely level playing fields. It's one of the very few sports in the world where this happens.

What I don't like is that there is no real prize money. A horse that wins Badminton nets its owner 80,000 pounds, whereas a horse that wins the Olympics often gets nothing. Individual countries offer money for gold medals, but not all do and some offer very small amounts. So, naturally, a lot of owners would rather see their horse win a 4* like Badminton.
  May 26, 2016  •  2,131 views
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