Equestrian events are the only Olympic competitions that involve animals.

A horse’s ability to move quickly from side to side, burst into a gallop or change direction immediately were all considered vital skills for horses used by soldiers. Horses have been trained in these skills since ancient times.

Olympic equestrian events are Jumping, Dressage and Eventing. In each,  both individual and team medals are awarded. Both men and women compete in equestrian events.

Riders make their horses jump over sets of rails in jumping events. ©iStock

Riders make their horses jump over sets of rails in jumping events. ©iStock

Jumping events

This is an equestrian event for teams of four riders and their horses, and there are also jumping event for single riders. Each rider must must make their horse jump over about 14 or 15 sets of rails.

They must do this in a set time. They lose points if the horse knocks any of the rails, if the horse will not jump, or if the horse takes too long to complete the course.

In dressage, the horse and rider must move sideways ©iStock

In dressage, the horse and rider must move sideways ©iStock

Dressage (say: dress-arj )

The riders make their horses do about thirty-six different moves. Some moves are very slow. The moves test the horse's strength and balance as well as how well horse and rider work together. Sometimes the horse looks like it is dancing.

Eventing

Eventing has three parts. The first part is dressage.

Water jumps are part of cross-country in eventing. ©iStock

Water jumps are part of cross-country in eventing. ©iStock

The second is cross country, when riders have to ride their horses along a track in a set time.  As well as the time limit there are a number of walls, logs and fences they jump over, and a water crossing.

The third part of the contest is jumping, which shows how fit and strong the horses are after a cross country race. Individual riders and teams of four compete in this event.

 

 

Read about equestrian events at the Olympic Games. There are videos to watch too.

Watch a video about learning to ride and to care for the horse. What are the qualities you need in order to become proficient and to compete?