Equestrian events were first included in the modern Olympic Games in 1900. By 1912, all three Olympic disciplines still seen today were part of the games. The following forms of competition are recognized worldwide and are a part of the equestrian events at the Olympics:
Dressage ("training" in French) involves the progressive training of the horse to a high level of impulsion, collection, and obedience. Competitive dressage has the goal of showing the horse carrying out, on request, the natural movements that it performs without thinking while running loose. One dressage master has defined it as "returning the freedom of the horse while carrying the rider."
Show jumping comprises a timed event judged on the ability of the horse and rider to jump over a series of obstacles, in a given order and with the fewest refusals or knockdowns of portions of the obstacles.
Eventing, also called combined training, horse trials, the three-day event, the Military, or the complete test, puts together the obedience of dressage with the athletic ability of show jumping, the fitness demands the cross-country jumping phase. In the last-named, the horses jump over fixed obstacles, such as logs, stone walls, banks, ditches, and water, trying to finish the course under the "optimum time." There was also the 'Steeple Chase' Phase, which is now excluded from most major competitions to bring them in line with the Olympic standard.
There is also one equestrian discipline in the Paralympics:
Para-Dressage is conducted under the same rules as conventional Dressage, but with riders divided into different classes based on the severity of their disabilities.
The additional non-Olympic events sanctioned by the FEI as international disciplines are: combined driving; endurance; horseball; reining; tent pegging; and vaulting. These events are recognized internationally and are part of the FEI World Equestrian Games every four years, and hold their own individual World Championships in other years.
Supporters believe that the sport of Reining is on the threshold of Olympic inclusion. Reining is the only Western equestrian discipline approved for Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) competition. Reining is a judged equestrian event, sometimes called “western dressage”. The horse is required to run through one of ten approved patterns, with the horse maneuvering through small slow circles, large fast circles, flying lead changes, roll backs over the hocks, 360 degree spins done in place, and sliding stops.
I have received unconfirmed reports that it was an exhibition sport at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, and maybe even in Sydney 2000 and Atlanta 1996. Reining is expected to take its place as an Olympic equestrian sport eventually (but not before 2020).
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