The Equestrian Olympics: all you need to know...

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was due to start next week, on Friday 24th to be precise. Now, in true 2020 style, things are a little different. If you Google 2020 Olympics, you see the date Friday 21st July 2021.

That is, of course, because the games have been postponed due to coronavirus. This has only ever happened three times before, each time due to either World War I or II. Funnily enough, the last Games to be cancelled were those of 1940, which were also due to be held in Tokyo.

We’re fairly sure that many of you will be disappointed not to see the Games take place this year and, it’s probably safe to assume that the Equestrian events would have been among the favourites for Spanish Boot Co followers. So, here are some facts and figures to keep you happy. Only 370 days to go….

Did you know…? That a horse needs a passport to compete in the Olympic Games. If it’s missing or deemed inaccurate they will not be eligible to compete. Like a human passport, the document is used for travel but also, and more importantly, it provides proof that they have the necessary health and veterinary certification.

Although equestrian events featured in the 1900 Games in Paris, their official launch wasn’t until 1912 in Stockholm. In Paris, events included jumping, high jump, long jump, and mail coach driving. Additionally, there was something called Hacks and Hunter, where riders walk, trot, canter and hand gallop on the flat and then jump two low fences. Somehow it seems that things have got more interesting over time!

The next two Olympic Games, in St Louis and then London, had no equestrian elements. There simply wasn’t the infrastructure to host them. However, they returned for the Stockholm Games in 1912 with a, frankly, much more realistic eventing competition consisting of a 55km endurance race, 5km cross-country, and 3.5km steeplechase.

Dressage, however, still hadn’t really found its form and, although it was included in the competition it looked quite different to what we know today. Competitors didn’t need to worry about piaffe and passage, instead needed to complete 5 jumps up to 1.1m in height and jump a painted cylinder that came rolling towards them at the end. Bonus points were awarded if this was done with the reins in one hand.

olympic dressage

Despite a slow start for women, who weren’t allowed to compete in these events until 1952, equestrian Olympic events are the only ones where men and women compete equally. It was originally only army officers who could take part, hence the exclusion of women. Danish athlete Lis Hartel became the first female medal winner, in 1952, the first year of women’s involvement.

Finally, during the 1956 Olympics, the equestrian events too place a world away from all others. These were the Australian Olympics and, due to quarantine laws, the equestrian competitions had to be held in Stockholm.


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