The 2012 London Olympic Games marks the 100th year of Olympic Equestrian Events in the modern Olympics. We’re celebrating a big anniversary ourselves here at Absorbine® – 2012 marks the 120th year that we’ve been providing quality horse care products, starting with our flagship Absorbine® Veterinary Liniment. In honor of both milestones, we’d like to take a look at how far the Olympic equestrian events have come in 100 years.
It was in 1912 that the first equestrian competitions were held in modern Olympics. The Games were to be held in Stockholm, Sweden, and Master of the Horse to the Swedish King, Count Clarence von Rosen, had been pushing for equestrian events in the Games for the last six years. He envisioned military representatives competing on horseback, with the intention of driving governments of the world towards the Games. His proposition was accepted, and was received affirmatively: eight nations entered 88 riders in total. Von Rosen introduced the three-discipline Olympic equestrian program that is still in use today, which includes dressage, jumping, and eventing, and involves both team and individual competitions.
Although the structure of Olympic equine competition has withstood the tests of time, the demands of each discipline have varied and evolved substantially over the years. The jumping competition in 1912 requested 29 jumping efforts, fences not to exceed 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) in height, and 4 m (13 feet) in width. Dressage was hardly the elegant performance of passage and piaffe that we recognize today, but instead was a test of obedience involving five jumps, and even a rolling painted cylinder that the horse had to jump as it moved towards him. Bonus points if you could hold the reins in one hand! Eventing was a five day effort, which included an endurance ride, cross-country phase, a steeplechase, a jumping round, and a final dressage test.
Since then, we have seen developments in all three areas of competition. Dressage became the test of flat work movements we recognize today in 1936. In 1952, civilians could compete on horseback; riders no longer had to be military officers. In the same year, women were granted the ability to compete in dressage, however not in jumping or eventing. In 1984, equestrian sports made their first appearance in the Paralympic Games. In 2004, the endurance phase of eventing became the current cross country phase, with the elimination of road and track as well as steeplechase competitions. These, along with many other progressions, developed into the equine events we see in the Olympics today.
Throughout the 100 year history of Olympic equestrian competition, an undying consistency that remains is the unifying effect it has on the equestrian community. Despite the vast number of different riding disciplines, breed loyalties, and training philosophies across the United States, we can all agree on one thing when the Olympics commence every fourth summer: the U.S.A .is home to some extraordinarily talented horses and riders.
This summer, we can expect to see some exciting performances from Team U.S.A. The jumping team is riding for their third-straight gold medal in the team event, featuring veteran riders Beezie Madden and McClain Ward alongside worthy newcomers Rich Feller and 18-year-old Reed Kessler. The dressage team is made up of Steffen Peters, Tina Konyot and Jan Ebeling, with Adrienne Lyle riding as an individual only. Eventing for U.S.A. will be five-time Olympians Karen O’Connor and Phillip Dutton, along with Boyd Martin, Tiana Coudray, and Will Coleman. It’s a promising line-up, complete with some truly outstanding horses.
As we each watch our country’s riders in the coming weeks, we support them as an entire equine community. When rider and horse sail over towering fences, transition into passage, and gallop over daunting obstacles, we will respect the intense training it took for them to arrive where they are because we’ve all worked hard to achieve our own victories in the saddle. We’ll admire the flawless presentation of each horse, as we know the feeling of pride that comes after a thorough grooming. As they pat their mount after a successful round, we’ll feel that delight too, because we’ve all been pleased with our horses after a great ride. The 2012 Olympics are a chance for the equine community to unite over the love of horses, as we have been doing for the last 100 years, and more. Thanks for reading as Absorbine cheers 100 years of Olympic Equestrian Events!
*All images courtesy of FEI.org