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Going for Gold

Equestrian SportsAlthough the 2012 Summer Olympics are over, the excitement it brought to so many lives on! Everyone still has Olympic fever and the horse community is no different! Horses bring a whole new dimension to the Olympics, creating a lot of unique circumstances. Let’s take a look a few:

  • Did you know there are only two competitions in the Olympics in which men and women compete as equals? The first is the Equestrian sports and the other is found in sailing.
  • Horses traveling to and from London for the 2012 Games had their own passports! The passports helped identify them as well as list their vaccinations. Horses came from all over the United States, traveling first to Newark Internal Airport, where they than took a red eye on a FedEx plane to London. They were kept on the pressurized upper deck of the plane where they had food, water, a veterinarian and a groomer.
  • Many countries, like the United States, have quarantine laws for animals entering their borders. This sometimes causes the Equestrian games to be held in a different location as the other games. For example, the 2008 Games were held in Beijing, but the Equestrian portion of the Olympics were held in Hong Kong. The 1956 Olympics were held in Melbourne, but the Equestrian games
    were held in Stockholm.
  • According to Top End Sports, equestrian games have some of the oldest Olympic competitors in history. The website reports that Arthur von Pongracz of Austria was almost 73 when he competed in Dressage in 1936 and that “the oldest woman to compete in the Olympics was British rider Lorna Johnstone, who participated in Equestrian at the 1972 Olympic Games at 70 years and 5 days old.”
  • Horses are the only animals (other than humans!) to compete in Olympic sports.

There are three Equestrian competitions in the summer Olympics: Jumping, Dressage and Eventing. Let’s take a closer look at each:

Probably the most popular Olympic Equestrian sport is jumping. And basically, the name says it all. In this sport, men and women compete as equals, both as individuals and in teams. The ride and horse duo must complete a course of about a dozen jumps cleanly. The winner will have clean jumps and a fast time. The Jumping ability of the horse was first developed in the 18th century, when fox hunting required the jumping of fences that were beginning to be erected to enclose properties. The discipline as we know it today, developed as a result of competitions among fox hunters. (Source: International Equestrian Federation (FEI))

The New York Times recently described dressage as “not quite ‘Swan Lake,’ but surprisingly close.” This seems appropriate since no one writes about dressage without describing it as ballet for horses. Horses and riders go through an obstacle course where they have to demonstrate how well they can perform specific movements. Each movement is judged on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being the highest. According to the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), “Dressage is considered the art of equestrian sport and is used as the groundwork for all other disciplines. It is the highest expression of horse training.”

A sort of combination of dressage and show jumping, adding in some cross country, which is a trial of endurance and speed. It’s a horse and rider version of a triathlon, also known as “Horse Trials,” “Combined Training” and “The 3 Day Event.” The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) says,  “Eventing is the most complete combined competition discipline recognized by the FEI where men and women compete as equals in both individual and team events.”

For a complete set of rules for each discipline, please refer to the website of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the governing body for the sport.

Making it to the Olympics is a great honor for humans and horses alike. Mane ‘n Tail salutes all the riders and horses who have competed at the 2012 London Olympics!

Make your horse stand out with this former US Equestrian Team groom’s time-tested techniques.

Plus, read about Mane ‘n Tail enthusiast and talented Eventer, Caroline Martin.

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