Previewing the Sports You Know Nothing About: Equestrian

Men, women, spouses, ex-lovers, and a 71-year-old: all competing against each other

equestrian 2012 Olympics London horses

Olympic equestrian.     Photo: wing1990hk/Flickr

HOW DOES IT WORK?
People wear blazers and ride around on really expensive horses? Basically, yes, but there’s more to it. There are three different competitions: dressage, where riders all perform a pre-set routine; jumping, a timed run through an obstacle course; and eventing, essentially a combination of the two. There are team and individual medals for all three competitions. Medal dates are July 31 (individual and team eventing), August 6 (team jumping), August 7 (team dressage), August 8 (individual jumping), August 9 (individual dressage). Oh, and men and women compete against each other.

HISTORY
Equestrian has been at every Olympics since 1912. Up until 1952, only military officials were allowed to participate in the event, and all events have been mixed since 1988. The U.S. has won the most all-time medals (49) but only the fourth-most golds (11). Germany’s 21 golds are the most ever, and their 42 all-time medals are second behind the U.S. Sweden has the second-most golds (17) and the third-most medals (41). Hirsohi Hoketsu, a 71-year-old Japanese rider, will be competing this year. He also rode in the 1964 games, which is before the Internet existed.

WHO IS THE BEST?
In dressage, the Dutch are defending world champions in both the individual and team events. Adelinde Cornellisen of the Netherlands and her horse Jerich Parzival (reminder: horse names are fun) are currently ranked number one, but German and British riders occupy the next seven spots in the rankings. Swede Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and his horse Casall are the top-ranked pair in jumping, but Germany and Switzerland should be on the medal stand for the team competition. The number-one rider/horse combo in eventing is William Fox-Pitt and his horse Lionheart, which, just cancel the Olympics because that’s the most British thing ever. New Zealand should challenge the hosts for the top team spot in eventing.

Important note: Since the competition is mixed, ex-girlfriends will be competing against ex-boyfriends, and wives will be competing against husbands. Relationships hang in the balance! Not really, but it’s kind of intriguing. Right?

DOES THE U.S. HAVE ANY CHANCE?
Not surprisingly, the U.S. is very good at a sport that requires exorbitant amounts of money to participate in. American teams have won gold in team jumping in the past two Olympics. Americans also picked up medals in the individual jumping and eventing competitions in Beijing. The U.S. is a legitimate medal contender in both team jumping and team eventing. Rich Fellers and his frankly-named horse Flexible should challenge for gold in individual jumping. We will not comment on Ann Romney’s horse, Rafalca, because we don’t want to distract from the presidential campaign. That would be rude.

SUGGESTED READING
Japan hoping stage is set for old campaigner Hiroshi Hoketsu's golden age,” by Ian Chadband

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