All about Olympic Equestrian Sports

Horses are trained and ridden for practical working purposes such as in police work or for controlling herd animals on a ranch.. Horse riders everywhere have been enjoying a slew of equestrian sports and events for hundreds of years. Three day events that include the riding disciplines of dressage, endurance and show jumping have actually been a part of the summer Olympics history since 1912. Horses, and specific equine breeds, learn from specialized training to successfully compete in events such as jumping, vaulting, dressage and more.

Read the information below to learn more about equestrian competition sports in detail. So Giddy Up!

Dressage by Sandra Auffarth.

Starting the list, we have Dressage.

Dressage :

Dressage is a type of competition that is focused on the core of all riding activities. To compete, the horse’s mind and body are taught to react to different commands to perform maneuvers, such as turns, walking straight lines, stopping, and galloping.

Dressage was primary developed during the Renaissance Period, but it can be traced all the way back to the time of a famous Greek solider, Xenophon. It was then that he wrote the book On the Art of Horsemanship in which he mentions the details of Dressage. Its format, difficultly, and training have all evolved through time as the sport continues to grow today. It was first introduced in the Olympic Games in 1912 although the format in which it is competed in has changed dramatically over the past 95 years.

Equipment for Dressage

A rider competing in Dressage wears decorative clothing, including a top hat, tailcoat, and spurs. Although a whip is used in training, it is disallowed in the arena, and is used to aid humane communication rather than physical dominance over the horse

Dressage Arena

The arena is set up with alphabetical markers to help guide you through your routine. The size of the arena is either 65 x 22 yards for higher level participants, or 44 x 22 yards for the lower end. The arena surface is different from that of the other areas of the stadium to create an barrier between the arena and the viewing area. If the horse leaves the arena surface, the rider is disqualified. The key to the surface is that it acts like turf, with the best surface said to be a combination of rubber and sand pieces

The keys to competing in Dressage according to The Complete Horse Riding Manual are purity, acceptance, calmness and forwardness.

Second in the list we have Show Jumping

Show-jumping :

Another division of equestrian sport is show-jumping, in which competitors ride horses over courses to show their skill in jumping over obstacles. It is an artistic sport that also requires science to understand angles of the course and the ability to judge the horses stride lengths and takeoff points. The top show-jumpers are said to be able to get within one foot of the takeoff target.

This sport was primarily a man’s sport until the 1950s, when women began to compete. The first female winner of a show-jumping event medal was Marion Coakes who took home the silver medal at the 1968 Olympic games. The history of show-jumping shows an evolution of the type of horses demanded in the event from big European horses due to their power, to the current demand of quick horses of some Thoroughbred decent.

Show-jumping is a type of horse event that requires dressage in practice. A short amount of time is spent in the air, with the other needed great control over the horse’s actions to maintain high awareness

Show Jumping by Nick Skelton

Equipment for Show-jumping:

The equipment for this type of event is comfortable because must be able to move freely without constriction or difficulty. According to Micklem a rider must wear a jacket, shirt, tie, breeches, boots, gloves, and a hat. And the horse must have a specialized saddle, bridle, and protective boots. The special saddle is flat so the rider can stay close to the horse over the fence and on the decent as well.


To train for show-jumping, a rider must move through different levels of exercises and fences to progress. It is also important to learn how to judge the stride length of the horse so you can move through the course smoothly without mistakes. To begin in the sport, practice involves learning the basics of dressage, and simple jumping.

Courses in show-jumping start at the novice level with fences set at 3 feet 6 inches in height and only a few variations in the jumping variables. The next level is elementary courses with fences at the height of 3 feet 9 inches, and a max jumping length of 4 feet 6 inches. There is a triple jump usually involved; the course must be completed in a time of 90 seconds. The third level is the medium course with 4 feet 3 inch heights and 4 feet 9 inch spreads in jumps and a 90 second finishing time. The last level for the event is the advanced course, with 4 feet 6 inch heights and 5 feet 2 inch spreads. It has to be completed in 72 seconds and involves a water jump and awkward distances between obstacles that can be tough to judge.

Next we have Cross Country Jumping

Cross-Country Jumping :

Cross country jumping is an event that involves the most crucial connection between the horse and rider. It also requires a high level of physical fitness and great efficiency training. Irish horses are the leaders in this type of competition, as the sport continues to focus more on skill than endurance.

Equipment for Cross-Country Jumping

Equipment in Cross-Country is much more focused on protection than anything else as the rider wears a skull cap, harness, and body protector. Riders sometimes are also required to have their medical records in a holder on their sleeve during competitions and also wear a stopwatch. Horses wear light weight bandaging for protection.

The real difference between cross-country jumping to others is the different types of landscapes the horse and ride must navigate. Banks, ditches, and water all must be navigated, with many different angles and approaches to make it harder to complete the course

Cross country jumping by Zara Phillips