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Developed to test and prepare cavalry horses, Eventing has a long and colourful history. Initially, the purpose was to create a competition in which officers and horses could be tested for any challenges that could occur on or off duty. It also provided a basis to compare training standards between the calvalries of different countries.
Although women had been allowed to ride in equestrian events since 1952, it wasn't until Helena du Pont competed for the United States at the 1964 Tokyo Games that Eventing saw its first woman representing her country.
Since the 1996 Atlanta Games, extensive studies and research have taken place examining the effets of heat and humidity on horses taking part in equestrian events. The world’s experts have poured over the subject and the success of all the measures in place and the knowledge at hand for the 2008 Olympic Games proved invaluable. The wealth of information collected also serves as a great resource for amateur equestrians faced with adverse climatic conditions around the world.
Equestrian sports featured on the Olympic programme of the Paris Games in 1900, with jumping events, and were then withdrawn until the 1912 Games in Stockholm. Since then, this sport has been on the Olympic programme with remarkable regularity.
Until 1948, only men competed in the events, as the riders had to be officers. This restriction was lifted in 1951, and, since the Helsinki Games in 1952, women have competed with men in the mixed events. They competed first in dressage, then gradually in the other equestrian events.
From the three disciplines that make up equestrian, eventing is the most demanding. Indeed, it combines not only jumping and dressage, but also a long cross-country course, on mixed terrain with sometimes imposing natural or artificial obstacles.
At the 2008 Games in Beijing, Canada’s Ian Millar did particularly well winning the silver medal in the team jumping, 36 years after his first participation in the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. At 61, he was the oldest medallist at the Beijing Games.
Until the arrival of Mark Todd, no rider from New Zealand had ever placed in the top 20 in an individual event, much less come close to winning a medal. Todd was a 28-year-old dairy farmer who sold much of his herd to finance his Olympic quest.
Previously, at the Los Angeles 1984 Games, Todd and his beloved horse, Charisma, were in second place after the dressage and endurance portions of the three-day event.
Four years later, at the Seoul 1988 Olympics, Todd and Charisma (at age 16) led the field in both the dressage and endurance stages, then knocked over just one fence to become only the second repeat winners of the three-day event.
Mark Todd would later take part of the Barcelona 1992, Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal in Sydney.
Helmer Mörner was an Olympic Equestrian gold medalist from Sweden during the Antwerp 1920 Olympic Games.