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Olympic Equestrian 101

Where the most common Olympic equestrian Q gets A’d

I’ve had a lot of people (both non-riders and riders who aren’t familiar with every discipline) ask me why dressage happens twice, or if the equestrian events are over for the Olympics, since we’ve already seen dressage, cross country and show jumping. I can certainly understand the confusion, since there are a lot of shared names. The best way I can think to explain it is, it’s like a human triathlon.

In humans, the triathlon is composed of swimming, biking and running. For horses, the three phases are dressage, cross country and show jumping. Back to the humans, everyone knows that you can compete in the combined event (the triathlon) or you can find an event that only features one element of the competition (e.g. you can go run a 5K or swim the 100m Freestyle). But you may not have known that the same is true for horses (well, except for cross country, but it wouldn’t be an equine sport if there weren’t weird technicalities).

Point being, there are horses and riders who go to the Olympics to compete in eventing, which include a dressage phase, a cross country phase and a show jumping phase, and then there are other horses and riders who go to the Olympics to compete only in dressage, or only in show jumping. Those dressage-only and show-jumping-only competitions are held entirely separately of the eventing competition (just like how 100m Freestylers aren’t expected to swim their race in the midst of someone else’s triathlon swim). Here’s hoping that made sense.

For the nitty-gritty on each discipline, check out the FEI’s super helpful explanations:

Show Jumping:

To get the full Olympic schedule of equestrian events, head to London2012:

Sarah Paull

Sarah Paull is a lifelong rider and SmartPak’s Brand Manager. You may know her better as the life-size foam finger from the London Olympics, the host of USEF Network’s Live from London coverage, or “that girl from the Stuff Riders Say videos.” Prior to joining SmartPak in 2008, Sarah worked as a Veterinary Technician at B.W. Furlong & Associates in Oldwick, NJ, and obtained her degree in Equine Science from Centenary College. Sarah is the proud mom of Cody, a semi-retired, 23-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, and she’s currently looking for an eventing partner to help her get rid of all the extra time, money and energy she doesn’t actually have :-) If you're interested in her often-horsey, always-odd musings, follow @SmartPakerSarah on Twitter.

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5 comments on “Olympic Equestrian 101
  1. Barbara Fogler says:

    I was just asked this question yesterday! Thanks for the post. I’ll be sending people here for your very helpful answer!!

    Barbara F @ Barnmice 🙂

  2. Kaylee says:

    This is a great summary! I like the triathlon analogy. I’ll be sharing this too 🙂

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