Were you able to watch the spectacular Games unfold this year?
This year’s equestrian events in the Olympics were more memorable than ever! With difficulties from COVID-19, the Games are running a year later than normal. They’re in full force now though! The opening ceremony took place on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. A record number of teams and individuals competed in the equestrian events this year. An impressive 200 horse and rider duos showed off their talent. Furthermore, over 50 nations were represented!
This sport dates back over 2,000 years. The Greeks introduced dressage to their horses for war training. It continued as a military exercise with a three-day event- dressage, cross country, and jumping. In 1900, the equestrian sport first appeared in the Olympic Games. It wasn’t until 1912 that it found a permanent place though.
The 2020 Tokyo equestrian events were held predominately at the Baji Koen Equestrian Park in Setagaya. This venue hosted dressage, jumping, and two of the three eventing phrases. It’s owned by the Japan Racing Association and operates as a public park.
The waterfront at Sea Forest had an eventing cross-country course for competitors. It was designer by Derek di Grazia over the last five years. The site was previously a landfill, but will become a public park after the events. This venue is also shared with the Olympic rowing and canoeing teams.
In order to make it to Tokyo, horses from around the world geared up for long plane rides. More than 300 horses traveled to Tokyo for the Olympics. Each one had their own passport! Over 19 airplanes and 185 truck journeys were necessary to transport these equine athletes. Coaches, grooms, team leaders, farriers, equine physical therapists, and veterinarians also made the trip.
Once in the air, the horses were carefully monitored for distress. They were fed and provided plenty of drinking water. In the event of an emergency, an equine vet had tranquilizers on hand. Luckily, that doesn’t happen too often.
This year dressage tests started on Friday, July 23rd. They consisted of team and individual medal events. A total of 60 horse and rider pairs were allowed to compete. Each team had three athlete and horse combinations. All had to compete in the Grand Prix Test. In the team events, the Grand Prix Test was a qualifier and the Grand Prix Special was the final part. For the individuals, the Grand Prix Test was also a qualifier. They then went on to compete in the Grand Prix Freestyle.
Kicking off on Thursday, July 29th, eventing also had team and individual medal events. This discipline allowed up to 65 rider and horse combinations. The format consisted of dressage, cross country, and jumping tests. These talented riders competed on the same horse throughout the three tests. Each team was composed of three riders and their horses. Individual classification was determined after an additional jumping test.
Inspection for jumping horses began on Saturday, July 31st. A total of 75 athlete/horse combinations competed in the team and individual events. The individuals had two competitions a qualifier and final with a possible jump-off. The team events shared a similar format. The final day of jumping and equestrian events was Saturday, August 7th.
You can see a full report on all of the medals awarded on the FEI website (https://tokyo2020.live.fei.org).
Germany, United States, and Great Britain dominated the events, as they frequently do. There were a lot of note-worthy teams this year though! It’s an exciting time for many. Horse lovers and the general public all get a thrill with watching the events unfold. It’s a great time to discuss horses with your coworkers, neighbors, and friends. Everyone can appreciate the hard work and determination that these riders and their horses have!