Olympic Equestrian TRIVIA!

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Stockholm equestrian poster. Stockholm equestrian poster.
Equestrian events have been a historic part of the Olympics since they first began. Following is some interesting trivia and info!

• Equestrian made its debut at the 1900 Paris Olympics and was first held under FEI rules in 1924. The 1900 Olympics included polo, grand prix jumping, high jump and long jump. Polo was also held at the 1908 London, 1920 Antwerp, 1924 Paris and 1936 Berlin games. Equestrian was dropped from1904 Olympics and not reintroduced until the 1912 Stockholm games

• Riders were restricted to officers on military horses, civilians could not compete until the 1952 games. After this it was one of the few sports where men and women could compete together on equal ground in mixed teams.

• Dressage at the 1912 Stockholm games had no piaffe or passage, but included five jumps up to 1.10 metres, with the final obstacle being a barrel that had to be jumped while it was rolled towards the horse. Riders could earn bonus points if they rode with one hand. Eventing was held over five days and comprised a 55km endurance ride to be finished in four hours and included a 5km cross country course. Dressage was held on the final day.

Olympic Dressage in 1928. Olympic Dressage in 1928.

• 1920 Antwerp–72 riders competed but many rode in more than one event. Vaulting was held for the first and only time at an Olympic Games.

• 1932 Los Angeles–Swedish rider Bertil Sandström was accused by a unofficial side-judge from the USA of clucking to his horse, which was not allowed under FEI rules, and he was moved to last place so his team could still score. Sandström claimed it was simply his new saddle squeaking.

Horses had to travel to Los Angeles by ship and rail and Dutch riders built a treadmill on the ship to keep their horses fit. Due to the Depression, only 35 entries from six countries competed…the lowest of any Olympics. It was the first time the dressage included piaffe and passage.

The 1932 Los Angeles team showjumping course was so hard that no nation completed the course with three riders, so no team showjumping medal was awarded that year.

Reiner Klimke (GER) has won six gold medals! (Kit Houghton photo). Reiner Klimke (GER) has won six gold medals! (Kit Houghton photo).

• 1936 Berlin–Germany won team and individual gold in all three disciplines, the only time a country has made a clean sweep. A rider fell off his horse during the cross country and as it took almost three hours to catch the horse, the rider received over 18,000 penalty points!

• Hans Günter Winkler’s horse, Halla (1945-1979) is the only horse to have won three Olympic gold medals in showjumping (1956 Stockholm individual and team; 1960 Rome team).

• Three equestrians have won eight medals, all in dressage:

– Reiner Klimke ((GER)–six gold (a record in itself) and two bronze.

– Anky van Grunsven (GER)–three gold and five silver

– Isobel Werth (NED)–five gold and three silver

• World War 2 saw a reduced number of riders competing in the 1948 London Games and Germany did not take part at all. The war made training dressage horses difficult, so riders only performed a 13 minute test with no piaffe or passage.

Lis Hartel was paralysed from the knees down but won two silver dressage medals.  She had to be helped off her horse. Lis Hartel was paralysed from the knees down but won two silver dressage medals. She had to be helped off her horse.

• 1952 Helsinki–women were allowed to compete for the first time but only in dressage as jumping and eventing were considered too dangerous. Denmark's Lis Hartel was the first woman to win an Olympic medal, doubly remarkable for the fact she had been paralyzed by polio in 1944 when she was 23 years old. She gradually regained muscle function but remained paralyzed from the knee down and her arms and hands were also affected. Despite not being able to mount or dismount unassisted, she managed to win individual silver. After riding her test, she was helped down from her horse, Jubilee. Gold medal winner, Henri Saint Cyr rushed to help her, and carried her to the victory platform for the medal presentation. Hartel won a second silver Olympic dressage medal at the 1956 Stockholm Games.

Bill Roycroft and Our Solo. Bill Roycroft and Our Solo.

• Australia’s quarantine laws were so strict, the 1956 Melbourne Olympic equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden, the first time in Olympic history there was a difference in not only place, but time with equestrian being held in June and other sports in Melbourne in November. Both had their own opening and closing ceremonies. Cross country fence number 22 was a trakehner (1m x 2.50m wide with sloping sides) which caused 28 refusals, 12 falls and one horse death. It was the first time Australia competed in Olympic equestrian. The second time equestrian was held in a different place was when they were staged in Hong Kong instead of Beijing. International vet groups refused to certify Beijing as being free of equine disease, which meant horses competing there would have had to endure long quarantine periods before being allowed to re-enter their respective countries.

• The 1960 Rome Australian eventing team of Lawrence ‘Laurie’ Morgan (Salad Days), Neale Lavis (Mirabooka) and Bill Roycroft (Our Solo) won the team eventing gold, but only a single medal was awarded to the team, which is now on display in the National Sports Museum at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Laurie Morgan won the individual gold and Neale Lavis the individual silver. Laurie Morgan was also the only senior Australian Rules footballer ever to win an Olympic medal.

Stoller...the only pony to win an Olympic medal Stoller...the only pony to win an Olympic medal

• There was no team dressage at the 1960 Rome games after a judging scandal at the 1956 Stockholm games when the German and Swedish judges were accused of favouring their own riders. The FEI threatened to remove Dressage from the Olympics, but an individual competition went ahead with two riders per country. Three of the judges had to be from non-participating countries and ride-offs were filmed. The judges took so long deciding on the final placings, the results weren’t announced until three days later! It was during this year that dressage scoring was changed from 0-6 to 0-10.

• At the 1964 Tokyo Games, American Lana du Pont became the first woman to ride in an Olympic evening competition

• The 1968 Mexico City Games were held 2,300 metres above sea level, which had 30% less oxygen and countries were advised to ship horses 3-4 weeks early to allow them to adjust. The cross country course was so difficult it would not be accepted today. Heavy rain during the cross country phase flooded a stream after 30 of 49 riders had gone through. The stream went from two meters wide to 12 meters and flooded the take off point.

• Only one pony has competed at an Olympic Games. Stroller was 14.1hh bay gelding ridden by Marion Mould (nee Coakes). He was by a thoroughbred out of a Connemara pony and won a silver medal in individual showjumping at the 1968 Mexico Games.

Matt Ryan shows his two gold medals to a fan (Tophorse photo). Matt Ryan shows his two gold medals to a fan (Tophorse photo).

• 1976 Montreal, Canada were the first Games where a horse was disqualified due to a positive drug test. San Carlos ridden by Ronald McMahon (IRE) received treatment for an injury that happened during transport. Treatment was needed but rules meant he couldn’t compete.

• Sixty-one year old Bill Roycroft was the oldest rider to take part at these Games. A father son duo (Bill & Wayne Roycroft) and mother and daughter duo (Rita and Silva de Luna from Guatemala) competed in the teams eventing

• Matt Ryan was the last Australian equestrian to win two Olympic gold medals at a single games. He won team and individual eventing gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Ian Millar (CAN) holds the record for an athlete attending the most Olympics. Ian Millar (CAN) holds the record for an athlete attending the most Olympics.

Most equestrian gold medals won by a nation:





11–West Germany


Australia are 10th with 6 gold (and have also won 3 silver and 2 bronze)

• The youngest equestrian competing at the London Olympics is showjumper Reed Kessler (USA) who turned 18 on July 9. The oldest is dressage rider Hiroshi Hoketsu (JAP) who will be 71.

• Australia’s Wendy Schaeffer is the youngest equestrian gold medallist in history–she was 22 when she won gold at the 1996 Atlanta games.

• The oldest Olympian equestrian is Arthur von Pongracz (dressage) of Austria who was 72 years old when he rode in the 1936 Berlin Games. The youngest ever Olympic competitor s 16 year old Luiza Almeida (dressage) of Brazil who competed in the 2008 Beijing Games. Riders are required by FEI to be 16 years old and horses a minimum of 7. There is no maximum age.

• When Equine Canada released the names of their equestrian athletes competing at the London Olympics, among them on the showjumping team was Ian Millar. So far he’s competed in nine Olympic games, a record he shares with Austrian sailor, Hubert Raudaschi. Millar’s appearance at the London Games will be his tenth…and he will hold the record for an athlete attending the most Olympics.

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