Equestrianism: sports of horse and rider. Dressage, jumping and the three-day-event (eventing) are the equestrian sports at the Olympic Games.
Equestrian sports were included in the Modern Olympic Games for the first time in 1900. They were absent in 1904 and 1908, but since 1912, they have never been missing from the program.
Initially almost all riders were military; eventing was open only to military officers, while in dressage and show-jumping civilians were allowed, but they only became regular competitors from 1952 onward.
Also since 1952, women were allowed to compete at an equal level with the men (and with great results). Equestrianism is one of the very few sports where men and women take part together.
In Beijing 42 country's will take part in the equestrian competitions, either with a team or with individual riders. Seven nations have a team in all three events: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States.
The equestrian games will be held in Hong-Kong. Here a state-of-the-art venue has been built around the existing Sha Tin race-track. Eventing will be held from August 9 till 12, dressage on August 13, 14, 16 and 19 and finally Jumping on August 15, 17, 18 and 21.
Sport with horses?
On the official Olympic site (www.olympic.org), equestrianism is being called “the ultimate in team sports.” This is being explained further as: “a horse and rider working together for years to hone feats of grace, daring, agility and speed.”
But we shouldn't be blind to the fact that some discussion is going on by people concerned about animal-rights and -welfare as to whether a sport with horses is ethically justified. Some people worry that the horses are forced to take part in the sport, that they may dislike it and that they run the risk of injury.
Well, no one can deny that risk, as horses do occasionally get injured, but so they do in the wild and at a recreational level. A large majority of people sporting with horses are equally worried and sad when horses get injured. So in the past decade many effective steps have been taken to reduce the occurrence of injury. The sport, jumping and eventing, is now much safer for horse and rider than some time ago. But still: it's a tough call and I don't want to disregard it, though I do know that horses often are very enthusiastic partners, loving to compete. Horses love to run, to jump or to show off (as in dressage), together with their rider.
With the present high level in international top-sport, a horse that is not ready, not enjoying himself or even brutally forced to obey its rider will simply never be among the winners. As such a horse-and-rider combination will lack the dedication and brilliance needed to shine!