• Robin Sooklall

Equestrian Sports - The Basics

Many people enjoy horse riding, whether as a hobby or sport. It can be both relaxing and exhilarating, and benefits the rider and horse physically and mentally. The connection and understanding between the two is unique and a strong bond makes for a more enjoyable ride.

Equestrian is designed to challenge this relationship. Since the 1912 Olympic Games, three disciplines have been used, as team and individual events:

> Dressage,

> Jumping, and

> Eventing.

These events also feature at the other main equestrian shows, the World Equestrian Games and the European Championships. It’s one of the rare sports where men and women compete as equals, in both the team and individual jumping events.


This tests the rider’s ability to control their horse’s movement. Considered the most artistic equestrian sport, the ancient Greeks used dressage techniques to train their horses for war. They recognised how important it was for the rider to have complete control of the horse’s speed, power and agility.

Dressage tests are performed in a 60m x 20m arena, involving a predetermined set of movements. The rider has to control the horse’s ability to move and perform at a walk, trot and canter.

In freestyle competition, riders choreograph their own routines, including some compulsory movements, performing to music. Judges placed at different positions in the arena mark the movements independently.

Dressage is seen as the highest expression of horse training. The combination of sport and art mean it’s growing in popularity. Para-equestrian Dressage is even a regular part of the Paralympic programme since 1996 - the only equestrian event included in the Games.


The best known and easiest to understand, even for a novice. However, competition is not for the faint-hearted!

This sport combines a mix of courage, control and technical ability for horse and rider to jump over 10 to 13 “knockable” obstacles. These can include double or treble combinations, with penalties incurred for each obstacle knocked down or refused. Two refusals or a fall results in elimination.

This can be thrilling sport, producing some of equestrian sport’s most memorable Olympic moments.


This event takes place over four days, sometimes known as an equestrian triathlon. Rider and horse need considerable skill and experience to compete in this discipline.