How to Qualify for the Equestrian Olympics

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The equestrian Olympics are one of the only two Olympic sports in which men and women compete against each other, and are divided into three phases: dressage, stadium jumping and cross-country jumping. There are also team Olympic games and individual games. To qualify for the equestrian Olympics, a rider must reach the top of her sport and start at a young age.

Things You'll Need

  • Sponsors
  • At least three horses (owned or leased)
  • Blue ribbons at international horse shows
  • Learn to ride horses through a local stable or your 4-H or pony club. Most equestrian Olympic riders began when they were very young, and established the basics quickly. However, there is no set number of required years of riding for you to participate.

  • Buy your own horse. It is nearly impossible to achieve Olympic-level ratings when you're riding a school horse at your local stable, so you'll need at least one of your own. If you make it to the international level, you'll also be leasing horses to ride in shows.

  • Participate in local, regional and national three-day eventing competitions. These consist of dressage, stadium jumping and cross-country jumping, and you will need to be accomplished in all three phases to qualify for the equestrian Olympics.

  • Familiarize yourself with FEI rules. All equestrian Olympic games, as well as most international competitions, are governed by these rules (see resources below), and it is important that you know them backward and forward.

  • Join a Young Riders program in your area. This is the first major stepping stone to qualify for the equestrian Olympics, and will allow you to earn points toward higher competitions. You will likely be showing all over the United States, so make sure you have a way to travel with your horse to competitions.

  • Qualify for the North American Junior and Young Riders Championships, which are held in several countries around the world. This will introduce you to national competition, and will allow you to build a name for yourself, thereby attracting potential sponsors.

  • Apply to join the United States Equestrian Team, which is the pool of riders from which equestrian Olympics hopefuls are chosen. Once you are able to prove yourself a good rider with a solid track record of wins, you will be well on your way to earning your spot on the Olympic team.

  • Participate in clinics given by Olympic equestrians, such as David and Karen O'Connor. The clinics can be expensive, but they will provide you with inside information and techniques that you won't find anywhere else. In many cases, clinicians will come to your own barn or stable.

Tips & Warnings

  • Go at your own pace. Just because you started late doesn't mean you can't qualify for the equestrian Olympics, and pushing yourself too hard and too fast may result in injury.
  • Talk to your parents about your dreams to qualify for the equestrian Olympics. This is not an inexpensive undertaking, and you will need their support.

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