For those of us who are not involved in the horse world, watching the equestrian sports at the Olympics can be a confusing business. Some events are competed for individually, some are in teams, and in many, women and men compete against each other. Equestrianism is unusual in the Olympics as there are not separate events for the different genders. The main Olympic equestrian events are explained below.
Eventing is one event featuring three disciplines; dressage, show jumping and cross-country. Both the team competition and individual competitions run at the same time. Competitors are given penalty points for errors or fences knocked over, and the competitor with the fewest penalty points at the end of the four days of competition wins. The best five competitors from each nation will have their points totaled to see which country wins the team medals. All of the eventing for the Olympic games will take part in Greenwich park. The rider stays with the same horse for the duration of the four day event, but outfits change with each discipline. Dressage demands very formal wear and excellent presentation of both horse and rider, show jumping is less formal but still smart with polished boots and red jackets, and for the cross-country events the key is comfort and safety, with riders wearing helmets and sturdy boots such as a the Ariat Volant front zip to protect their feet, ankles and legs.
The discipline of dressage showcases the control between horse and rider. Riders are immaculately turned out in their velvet hats, scarlet riding jackets and Ariat Volant front zip boots. The riders have to navigate their horses around a course showing off set moves, and penalty points are given for errors. The lowest scoring individual and teams will scoop the medals. Dressage is an elegant sport, but for someone who is not interested in horses or familiar with what the athletes are trying to accomplish, it can be baffling.
Show jumping is the event most of us are familiar with and is the equestrian sport most often seen on television. The horse and rider have to make their way around a course of jumps against the clock. Scoring is a combination of the time it takes to complete the course, with penalty seconds added on for every bar knocked down. The lowest time wins.
British Medal Hopes
The UK has traditionally performed well in the Olympic equestrian events. In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Germany, the USA and Australia also performed strongly and it is likely competition will be equally fierce this time round. The UK won gold at the World Equestrian Games in 2010 however, so are in with a good chance of medals on home soil this summer. Zara Phillips is perhaps the best known name in British equestrian sport, and she still has a chance of making the Olympic squad. The team also has experienced riders such as William Fox-Pitt and Pippa Funnell. For those unlucky in the ballot for tickets, equestrian events will be broadcast live on television.
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