Horses have been involved in the Olympics since the chariot races of ancient times. In the modern Olympics, equestrian events are very different and come in three parts: Dressage, Jumping and Eventing.
To get some local demonstrations of this sport, rich with tradition, we went to Cottonwood Farm in Clovis and Fresno State.
Olympic Equestrian events come in three parts: Dressage, Stadium Jumping and the Three Day Event, which is a combination of the other two plus cross country.
Dressage is a test of control over the horse. The rider is given a predetermined series of movements that they have to get the horse to do in the right order.
“It should look effortless. AJ: Is it effortless? Kim: Not really - laugh”, says Kimberly Hewson-Budnik. She and “Kit” gave us a demonstration and her coach Stephanie Reeves gave us the play by play.
“This is a leg yield. So see the lateral movement of his legs and his sideways track.”
“So now she’s at a canter… and that was a lead change. So, did you see how his right front changed? And there. See how he changed? That’s called a flying lead change because he’s changing as he’s cantering.”
Kimberly told us, “I mean, I love to watch everything. I love to watch dressage because they do make it look… very easy. And they do some very high level movements, like getting the horse to trot in place. So, not going forward, just raising their legs which is something that every rider aspires to do because they just sit there.”
Jumping is… well… jumping. Clear every obstacle as fast as possible. Knock over any of them and get a time penalty. Fastest time wins.
The girls of Cottonwood Farm Summer Horse Camp are being trained to do this.
They’re trained in the events, but constantly reminded of all the additional work – beyond what you see in the Olympics.
Patrice Corbridge explains, “First safety – how to be around a horse – what to do and not do”
“Here let’s pull his reins over his head so you can take him back to his stall, okay? – c’mon let’s go”
Here’s a couple of things you may not realize about Equestrian.
One: men and women compete against each other and two: age.
The two people that embody both these points are 71-year-old rider Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan and 17-year-old rider Reed Kessler from the United States. They are the oldest and youngest equestrian competitors ever in the Olympics.
So if age and gender don’t matter, you might wonder what does matter in equestrian events: “It’s also attitude. The kid that doesn’t necessarily have the talent right off the get go, but works hard, and is diligent, will come just as far.”
Equestrian events start on July 28th and go through August 9th. You can follow all of the exciting action on KSEE24 and NBC, as well as NBC's Olympic website.