London 2012 was an incredible few weeks for the equestrian world. 18 medals were won, with Team GB bagging 5, the Germans and Dutch taking 4, and Switzerland securing its first gold in over 80 years. All this extra publicity is great news for equine businesses.
More and more people have been inspired by the success in the equestrian events, and are looking to take up the sport for themselves. But do you really know all the options open to you? You may be surprised at the diversity:
Dressage is a competitive equine sport, where horse and rider perform a specific routine. Some of the routines performed at this year’s Olympic Games were simply breathtaking. Horse and rider become one, and perform what can be best described as a dance – it is not known as ‘horse ballet’ for nothing.
When performed competitively, riders perform a number of ‘tests’. Judges then rate these from 0-10, with 0 being ‘not executed’ and 10 being ‘perfect’. If you want to get involved in dressage, you need to build a great connection with your horse. The routine needs to look like a duet. It needs to be seamless, and perfectly in time to the music. Take the routines performed at this year’s games as your inspiration.
2. Show Jumping
Show jumping is one of those sports that is pretty self-explanatory. A regular feature of horse shows all over the world, jumping events and classes cover a variety of disciplines. The basic rules of show jumping are to clear the obstacles without knocking them down, or the horse refusing to jump.
Competitors are aiming to lose the least points. If the horse refuses to jump, is unable to clear the obstacle, or does not jump well, you get a penalty. At the end of the competition, the rider with the least penalties wins. Classes are hugely popular, so this is definitely a sport worth taking up.
Polo isn’t an Olympics event (unless of course you consider the variety played in water) but is an equine sport you can try. Played on horseback, the aim is to drive a plastic or wooden ball into a goal using a mallet.
Not for the faint hearted, polo is played at speed and requires precision, skill, and quick thinking. The game was dropped as an Olympic sport, but is still one worth looking into if you’re looking to get involved in equestrian sports with a difference.
Horse racing is perhaps one of the most well-known equestrian sports. With national hunt, point to point, and flat racing to choose from; there is a level for everyone. Following in the footsteps of the likes of AP McCoy and Frankie Dettori and galloping to victory is a dream for many.
To become a jockey, you need to be light and small to avoid weighing the horse down. If you’re of a more muscular and large build, polo is perhaps more your sport. This is a fast paced and exhilarating sport to get into. Like most sports though, the younger you start, the more likely you are to work your way to the top.
Eventing, sometimes called horse trials, is combined cross-country, dressage, and show jumping. This is either held over 1 or 4 days, and is judged in the same way as many other events. The riders try to score as few penalties as possible. Team GB wowed in the eventing during the 2012 Olympics, introducing the sport to a whole new generation.
If you were inspired to get involved in eventing you’d be in good company. Zara Phillips, Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter was part of silver medal winning GB at the London games. This is a sport that requires you to master the three elements. But if you have the motivation, it’s a great sport to get involved in.
These are just a handful of the great equestrian sports available. The earlier you start, the better you’ll become. However they are still great pastimes and a great way to exercise. Check out your local stables, and trainers to find out more about getting involved in these activities.
If you’re looking to become the best, you need to work with the best. Jonjo O’Neill is an expert racehorse trainer, based in the UK. To find out more about his facilities and what he can do for you, visit his website.