The equestrian competitions are one of only two Olympic events where men and women contend against one another as equals. There are three equestrian genres in the Olympic Games, which are dressage, jumping and eventing. Each one demands a specific breed of horse capable of performing at an advanced, professional-level to compete with the best riders from all over the world.
Olympic Dressage Breeds
Dressage has a long history and is rich with tradition. It dates back to ancient Greece and has deep-rooted affiliations with the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. It is the highest form of equitation, and an equestrian sport used as the groundwork for all other disciplines. Dressage requires a horse that is elegant, supple, balanced, precise, fluid and has the ability to extend gracefully. Olympic dressage breeds consist of the Andalusian, Danish Warmblood, Hanoverian, Lusitano, Oldenburg and Westphalian.
Olympic Jumper Breeds
The Olympic jumping event evolved from foxhunting on the English countryside. The competition between foxhunters required horses that were exceptional jumpers. Olympic jumping breeds consist of horses that are bold, courageous, intelligent, lean, agile, strong and athletic. They include the Belgian Warmblood, Dutch Warmblood, Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Oldenburg, Selle Francais, Swedish Warmblood and the Westphalian.
Olympic Eventing Breeds
Of the three equestrian Olympic events, eventing is the most comprehensive. It builds upon dressage and jumping and demands horse and rider have considerable ability in all areas of equitation. Cross country eventing combines skills related to both dressage and jumping, exhibited on a mixed terrain course through difficult and imposing obstacles. Traits that make a particular breed best-suited to Olympic eventing include stamina, courage, intelligence, agility, strength and versatility. Olympic eventing breeds include the Anglo-Arabian which is a combination of the Arabian and Thoroughbred bloodlines, Belgian Warmblood, Dutch Warmblood, Hanoverian, Irish Sport Horse, Selle Francais, Swiss Warmblood and Thoroughbred.
History of Equestrian Olympics
The first equestrian Olympic event took place in Athens, Greece, in 680 B.C. when chariot racing was introduced during the ancient Olympic games. However, it wasn’t until 1900 that equestrian events were officially reintroduced to the Olympics, with individual jumping in Paris. In 1912, team jumping, individual dressage, and both individual and team eventing were added. In 1928, team dressage was established to round out the six events that are competed today. Now considered to be an essential element of dressage, the musical freestyle began during the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.