Equestrian Events in the “Modern” Olympics

The equestrian events at the Olympics are the only event where men and women compete against each other, and the only event where human athletes partner with animal athletes. It is one of the aspects of the Olympics that provides a direct link to the sports played at the ancient games. Unfortunately, there are no longer chariot races or races (bareback or otherwise).

In fact, the Olympic events that we watch today — dressage, eventing, and show jumping — have evolved significantly over the past century. For example, women and civilians were not permitted to compete in equestrian events until 1952. Before then, equestrian riders were commissioned officers and eventing was a sport that evolved from military exercises — in Germany, this sport is still called the “militaire.”

Equestrian events made their debut at the Paris Olympics in 1900. Three events were contested: show jumping, high jump, and long jump. Hacks, hunters and mail coach (I can’t find a description of exactly what that entailed) were contested but not considered official Olympic sports.

The Italian rider Giovanni Giorgio Trissino won a gold and a silver. He narrowly missed making Olympic

Riders on the steeplechase course at the 1912 Olympics.
Riders on the steeplechase course at the 1912 Olympics.

history by winning two medals in the same event. Competing with two different horses in the high jump, he jointly won the gold medal and finished in 4th place on his second horse.

After 1900, equestrian events had a hiatus until 1912. At that Olympics the elements of eventing were

Ake Hoek of Sweden and his horse clear a fence at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. (IOC Olympic Museum/Getty Images)
Ake Hoek of Sweden and his horse clear a fence at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. (IOC Olympic Museum/Getty Images)

introduced, along with dressage. Polo was briefly an Olympic event in 1924.

The Olympics of 1932, in Los Angeles,  were unusual — from an equestrian standpoint — no team medals were awarded because no team had three riders finish the course. In comparison to the current Olympic competitions, which is typically less technically challenging than a **** event, Olympics in the 1930s and 40s were know for their extremely difficult jumping courses. At the 1948 London Games, Mexico won a suprise gold medal ahead of Spain and Great Britain simply because no other team finished!

The first woman to medal at the Olympics was Lis Hartel won an individual silver medal in dressage at the

Lis Hartel was the first woman to win a medal in an equestrian event.
Lis Hartel was the first woman to win a medal in an equestrian event.

Helsinki Olympics in 1952. She repeated her win in 1956 when the equestrian events for the Melbourne, Australia Olympics were held in Stockholm, Sweden due to Australian quarantine regulations. Her accomplishment was more remarkable because Hartel had overcome polio and was still paralyzed from the knees down.

7 thoughts on “Equestrian Events in the “Modern” Olympics

    1. ok Mr. San Mateo Pete… you obviously dont know a damn thing about horse riding… Do you know how much work it takes to get a horse ready for something like the olympics? Do you know how much work it is for the rider to get ready for something like that? Its more than just sitting on the horse and letting him jump. You move with him, you jump with him. The horse is rewarded… trust me. They are not tortured. It doesnt hurt the horse. He’s just as happy when he gets home and he gets pampered and fed. Its a whole hell of alot more work than just sitting there.

  1. BTW, my post is a bit over-the-top and salty purely for comedic purposes…no intentions of offending you and horse riders in general. But I stand by my reasoning.

  2. Let’s never mind that if the horse doesn’t want to jump, he isn’t going to jump. Or race, or rein, or whatever. The people who think horses are being forced to do something like jump think it because the rider may be carrying a whip. Duh. I know horses that would rather die than jump, and I know horses that can’t be kept in a conventionally fenced paddock because he’ll jump out all on his own.
    what upsets me most about the Olympics is that NBC (?) won’t show the equestrian events. Or if they do, it’s at 0200 in the morning.

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