Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Equestrian at the Summer Olympics


Equestrian will feature in the coming Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. But when did equestrian debut at modern summer Olympics editions? What has happened through the years and what are the events that feature in the equestrian sport in Summer Olympics editions? Do you know that Equestrian also feature as part of the modern pentathlon? Which are the most successful nations in the equestrian sport? Those are some of the questions that I intend to answer in this blog post. Did you also know that equestrian and modern pentathlon are the only two sports in modern summer Olympics that include animals; well horses are key component in these two sports and they are considered equivalent to their riders, hence they are considered to be participating athletes.

Equestrian in the early Summer Olympics edition Debut

Equestrian are sports that combine horses and riders. It is a sport closely related or associated with polo. Equestrian is a competitive sport in the Summer Olympics and featured first in the second edition of the games; the 1900 Paris Summer Olympics. In the 1900 edition, only five events were competed upon and IOC only recognizes three of those events. Those recognized by IOC are jumping, high jump and long Jump. Those not recognized are Hacks and hunter combined and mail coach. The events that featured in the Paris games are different from the events in later editions of the Olympics.

Missing out in the 1904 and 1908 Summer Olympics editions

Despite, equestrian featuring in the second edition of the summer Olympics, it was not part of the 1904 Summer Olympics. We cannot talk about equestrian without mentioning a key contributor to the inclusion of the sport in the Olympics in the subsequent editions as from the 1912 edition of the Summer Olympics held in Stockholm Sweden. This was Count Carl Clarence von Rosen, who was among other things a military officer, an athlete and also the Horse Master, In-charge of the Swedish king’s horses as well as a member of International Olympics Committee. It was Carl’s idea to introduce the equestrian as we know it today by suggesting inclusion of Dressage, Eventing and Jumping

Equestrian from the 1912 to 1952 Summer Olympics editions

Carl would not see equestrian feature his three events in the 1912 edition of the Summer Olympics i.e. dressage, eventing and show jumping because of lack of proper organization of the newly formed Horse Show Committee, however in the subsequent edition of the Summer Olympics, these three would become part of the equestrian sport.

1952 Summer Olympics edition and to today, equestrian sport take a turn for the better

It important to remember that Equestrian was not open to non-military athlete at the Olympics, but this would change in the 1952 Summer Olympics held in Helsinki. It therefore crucial that we always thank Finland and Sweden for have been in the forefront of the growth and development of the Equestrian sport at the Summer Olympics.

The 1952 edition saw the non-military commissioned officers participate for the first time in the sport at a summer edition of the Olympics. However, only “gentlemen” were allowed to participate, I don’t know which criteria was used to select the said gentlemen, but this had a profound effect as it excluded women participation and this was a cause of discontent which was later ironed out and women were allowed to participate. But unlike the men who were allowed to take part in all the equestrian events, women in 1952 participated only in the Dressage.

This would change in the 1956 Summer Olympics, which saw the women take part in all the three elements of the equestrian sport, which means the women participated in the Dressage for the second time, besides participating in the Eventing and Jumping for the first time. This was also a turning point of the equestrian sport as men and women would and still do compete against each other.

Important facts about Equestrian in the Summer Olympics Sports

Equestrian at the Olympics allows men and women to compete against each other with teams allowed to select members from both genders to compete directly with similar teams made up of both man and women.

Equestrian is also the only sport in the Olympics where in some instances it has taken place away from the host nation. Take for instance the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics, the whole equestrian sport was held in Stockholm Sweden, this was because Australia has a very strict horse quarantine regulations.

The 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing also had the Equestrian sport take place in Hong Kong, this was due to significantly high level of Equine; a viral horse disease known as quinine, besides, the infrastructure in Hong Kong are superior as it has a well advanced and developed horse industry and has effective quarantine rules.

However in the Rio Summer Olympics, the equestrian events will take place in Rio.

The most successful nation in the Summer Olympics equestrian sport

Germany throughout the years has proved to be the most successful nation when it comes to equestrian sport at the Summer Olympics. Before the division of Germany into two parts, that is East and West Germany just after the Second World War, as a participating team in the modern summer Olympics, Germany had accumulated 23 gold medals before the breaking up and after 1990 unification. As a West Germany it also won another 11 gold medals. The Germany Unified Team participated in the Olympics in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 summer edition of the Olympics and has won more 5 gold medals.

Sweden played a key role in the establishment of the equestrian sport and it’s also the second most successful team with 17 gold medals. France is the third most important team has accumulated 12 gold medals.

The 3rd most successful teams in the equestrian sport in the summer editions of the modern Olympics are all from Europe, however USA breaks the ranks and it’s in position 4 with 11 gold medals and its followed by yet another European team; Netherlands, which has 10 gold medals in the summer Olympics equestrian sport.

Australia is the other non-European team which has ever won gold medals in the equestrian sport with a total of 6 gold medals and at position 10. New Zealand is in the list of the most successful teams in the equestrian at the summer Olympics at position 14 with 3 gold medals. It closely followed by Canada at position 15 with 2 gold medals.

Another American team is Mexico which is at position 16 with two gold medals but less silver medals compared to Canada. The 2016 Summer Olympics host nation has also made a name in the Summer Olympics equestrian sport in the summer Olympics and is ranked position 20 with one gold medal.

The most successful Asian team is Japan, which is at position 21 with a gold medal.

No African team has ever won any type of a medal in the Equestrian sport in any of the summer Olympics edition, we hope this will change at the coming Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.