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Welcome to the guide about the equestrian sports!

This short guide is aimed at acquinting you with the different kinds of equestrian sports, its history and the biggest events in the world of equestrianism.


Humans have been riding horses for at least 9,000 years, as shown by the 8th millennium BC cave drawings. Indirect evidence suggests that horses were ridden long before they were driven. There is some evidence that about 3,000 BC, near the Dnieper River and the Don River, people were using bits on horses, as a stallion that was buried there shows teeth wear consistent with using a bit.However, the most unequivocal early archaeological evidence of equines put to working use was of horses being driven. Chariot burials about 2500 BC present the most direct hard evidence of horses used as working animals. In ancient times chariot warfare was followed by the use of war horses as light and heavy cavalry. The horse played an important role throughout human history all over the world, both in warfare and in peaceful pursuits such as transportation, trade and agriculture. Horses lived in North America, but died out at the end of the Ice Age. Horses were brought back to North America by European explorers, beginning with the second voyage of Columbus in 1493. Equestrianism was introduced in the 1900 Summer Olympics as an Olympic sport with jumping events. Some equestrian events which are not in the Olympics are combined driving, endurance, reining, and vaulting. These events are of the World Equestrian Games which is organized by the FEI. They are organized every four years. The governing body for equestrian is the International Federation for Equestrian Sports.

Kinds of equestrian sports


Dressage is one of the most elegant kinds of sports. Its aim is to demonstrate ability of the horse and the rider to perform different predetermined movements on the letter marks at the arena. Competitions are held at all levels from amateur to the Olympic Games and World Equestrian Games. Its fundamental purpose is to develop, through standardized progressive training methods, a horse's natural athletic ability and willingness to perform, thereby maximizing its potential as a riding horse. At the peak of a dressage horse's gymnastic development, the horse responds smoothly to a skilled rider's minimal aids. The rider is relaxed and appears effort-free while the horse willingly performs the requested movement.




Showjumping events are held over the course of obstacles that can be vertical, lateral, or double or even triple combinations. The intent is to complete the course within the alotted time and with as less mistakes as possible. Time faults are assessed for exceeding the time allowance. Jumping faults are incurred for knockdowns and blatant disobedience, such as refusals (when the horse stops before a fence or "runs out"). Horses are allowed a limited number of refusals before being disqualified. A refusal may lead to a rider exceeding the time allowed on course. Placings are based on the lowest number of points or "faults" accumulated. A horse and rider who have not accumulated any jumping faults or penalty points are said to have scored a "clear round". Tied entries usually have a jump-off over a raised and shortened course, and the course is timed; if entries are tied for faults accumulated in the jump-off, the fastest time wins.

Cross Country

Cross country equestrian jumping is an endurance test that forms one of the three phases of the sport of eventing; it may also be a competition in its own right, known as hunter trials or simply "cross-country", although these tend to be lower level, local competitions. The object of the endurance test is to prove the speed, endurance and jumping ability of the true cross-country horse when he is well trained and brought to the peak of condition. At the same time, it demonstrates the rider's knowledge of pace and the use of this horse across country.




Equestrian vaulting, or simply vaulting, is most often described as gymnastics and dance on horseback, which can be practiced both competitively or non-competitively. Vaulting has a history as an equestrian act at circuses, but its origins stretch back at least two-thousand years. It is open to both men and women and is one of ten equestrian disciplines recognized by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (Fédération Équestre Internationale or FEI). Therapeutic or interactive vaulting is also used as an activity for children and adults who may have balance, attention, gross motor skill or social deficits.

Horse Racing

Horse racing is an equestrian discipline involving two or more horses ridden by jokeys, competing on a track. The winner is considered to be the pair who finishes the track in the shortest amount of time. It is one of the ancient sports known and the rules have not been changed since the antiquity. However, it is one of the most dngerous sports as well with approximately 700-800 deaths per year. The rules might be changing between the countries and competitions and set restrictions on age of the jokeys, horse breeds, track surface and length, etc. Major part of horse racing's interest and its economic importance are primarily in gambling which is associated with racing.


Other disciplines

The disciplines counted above, alongside with certain team disciplines such as polo, horseball, etc., are considered to belong to the English riding equestrian eventsHowever, among the equestrian sports you can also find a Western riding events: rodeo, cattling, reining and many others. These styles evolved as a part of North American culture during the colonization times. Western riders are not subjected to wear classical riding attire and use different tack - specific western saddle and a bridle without a capsule with attached long reins. Apart from these two styles, each ethnicity can count a range of their own styles and events such as trick riding, that demonstrates different elements used in battles by Romans, Cossacks, Mongols and many others.


Major Equestrian Events

Racing events

Racing events are attracting viewers from all around the world and famous and wealthy guests are no strangers to the major racing events such as Royal Ascot or Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Derby, also known as 'The Run for Roses' is one of the most famous and prestigious competitions in the world, which wook its beginning in 1875 and has been held even during the times of The Great Depression and the both World Wars. It is one of the stages of so called 'Triple Crown', a title given to the winning 3-year old Thoroughbred horses.


Royal Ascot is a British racing event, that is being held under a patronage of the Royal Family. The Ascot Racecourse has a history even longer than that of the Kentucky Derby - it has been opened in 1711, however the race under the name Royal Ascot appears in history only in 1911. It is always attended by the members of the British Royal family, which is usually actively highlighted in the media and is usually very restricted to other visitors.


Melbourne Cup is Australia's most famous annual racing event, being also the most expensive endurance canter race. It has a long history, starting in 1861 as the part of Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival. 


English riding events

The most famous English riding events are mostly held in Europe. CHIO Aachen inculdes several disciplines such as show jumping, dressage, vaulting, eventing, and four-in-hand driving. It begins its history in 1924, when it still included horse racing. Today it is considered to be the most prestigious competition in showjumping and dressage. 


Prix D'Amerique is a harness race held at the Hippodrome de Vincennes in Paris, France. It is held annually on the last Sunday of January, when the weather usually creates an extra challenge to the competitors. Only horses that have won at least 160 thousands euros during their career are allowed to compete for the winning prize of 900 thousands euros. 


Badminton Horse Trials takes place annualy in April or May in the park of Badminton House, a residence of the Duke of Beaufort in South Gloucestershire, England. First it was started in 1949 by the 10th Duke of Beaufort in order to give an opportunity to British riders to train for the internationals competitions and now is one the most prestigious eventing trials in the world, being one of the 3 events completing Rolex Grand Slam of eventing. It is the second most profitable equestrian event in the world after Indianapolis 500.

Western and regional cultural events

Western riding style evolved as a response to everyday life and activities of cowboys which continued its tradition up till today and managed to secure its place among the already existing classic equestrian disciplines. Calgary Stampede, a 10-day rodeo, derby and chuckwagon racing event attracts more than a million visitors every year. This event has a huge importance to the history of Canada as it accumulated a significant amount of money to sustain the economy of Calgary after a quite unsuccessful campaing prompting the farmers and ranchers from the east of Canada to move west.


Palio di Siena is an Italian horse riding event, that is quite different from the English and Western riding events. The riders who participate in the race are riding bareback, dressed in vintage jockey outfits representing the city wards. Whoever gets the colorful banner first is the winner of the race. It is considered to be one of the biggest cultural events in Tuscany. 


Even though horse polo game is considered to be an English discipline, it gained a huge significance in Argentina and some other parts of South America. Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo or Argentine Open Polo Championship has been held since the end of 19th century and only once since the beginning was won by a non-Argentinian team. 

Cross Country
Horse Racing
Other disciplines
Racing Events
English Riding Events
Western and Other Events
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