28 November 2021

London 2012: Bluffer’s guide to equestrian

July 16, 2012
London 2012: Bluffer's guide to equestrian

One of the most important factors when it comes to successful riding is having a good and trusting relationship between the horse and rider.

But as well as this, a comfortable saddle along with a good posture with a straight back and heels tucked in, are also vital when it comes to gaining success at this sport.

In the last 16 Olympics in which a British equestrian team has competed, there have been only three occasions when they failed to win a medal making it a very popular and exciting sport for fans to watch.

Venue: Greenwich Park


Eventing: July 28 – 31
Dressage: August 2 – 9
Jumping: August 4 –  8

Jargon buster


Run-out: When a horse runs around a fence instead of jumping over it.

Refusal: When a horse refuses to jump a fence, incurring faults.

Fault: Penalty points awarded for making a mistake: for instance, a refusal at an obstacle, or exceeding the optimum time.

Obstacle: Any fence or jump in the cross-country and jumping courses.

Optimum time: The target time in the Cross-Country event. Each second above the optimum time carries a penalty of 0.4 faults.


Aid: In dressage, a prompt that a rider gives to a horse to change gait or turn. This can be done using the hands, legs, voice or through a shift in body weight.

Canter: A steady controlled gait for which three of the horse’s legs are off the ground at once.

Half-pass: When a horse moves forwards and sideways at the same time, bent in the direction of movement.

Piaffe: A trotting movement, performed almost on the spot.

Self-carriage: When a horse moves in balance without support from the reins.


Clear round: A round without any faults.

Jump-off: If one or more riders are tied for first place after the final scheduled round, there may be an extra round of competition, known as a jump-off.

Refusal: When a horse stops at a jump, incurring faults.

Triple combination: Three fences in close proximity, with just a few steps between them.

Basic rules


Eventing is one of the most gruelling sports that requires both the rider and horse to posses good stamina and concentration due to its sheer length, as well as flair and jumping prowess.

They need the skills to excel at dressage and showjumping, but also will need to be super-fit and utterly fearless if they want to make it round the cross-country course which consists of 45 jumps with points deducted for failed jumps and time penalties.

The fences, pond, ditches and combinations are designed to be a challenge that need to be cleared as quickly as possible in order to find a winner.


Dressage comes down to having the perfectly trained horse. But this isn’t easy or guaranteed at all – the rider and their horse must move in perfect harmony which only comes as a result of exceptional communication and teamwork which comes with a lot of disciplined training.

The dressage event takes place in a 60 x 20-metre sand-based arena where horses have to perform a series of movements such as a half-pass or piaffe.

In the individual event, for the first two rounds, the movements are set in compulsory order and for the final freestyle round, the rider chooses an individual programme that is set to music.

The team dressage consists of three riders per country, with their scores over a single round averaged.

There are five judges who award points based to the riders and their horses that are based on accuracy of movement, calmness, suppleness and flexibility.

The winner is determined by the average scores over the final two rounds.


Showjumping relies on the accuracy and discipline of the rider as much as the athleticism of the horse as they jump over various fence obstacles on the course.

Turns, paces and strides all must be accounted for as the rider judges the best possible way in which to successful clear the horse over the fence.

There are roughly about 15 fences on the course and those who hit them are penalised with ‘faults’ – as a result the winner is the rider with the fewer faults over the two final rounds.

Time faults (one per second) are also awarded if the rider does not complete the course within a set time.

One to watch

Mary King. She has represented Great Britain at five Olympics from 1992 to 2008, winning one silver and one bronze medal in the team eventing.

She has also won two gold and one silver medal in the World Equestrian Games team eventing and four team gold medals at the European Eventing Championships along with one bronze and one silver medal in the individual event.

Who’s the gold medal favourite? Germany are fierce competitors in equestrian, in Beijing they won five medals, three being gold.

When looking at GB’s team however, eventing has traditionally been Britain’s strength, but with the new additional of the talented Laura Bechtolsheimer GB has raised hopes of a first British dressage medal.

Who to follow on twitter…



Equestrian Olympic fact

Equestrian is the only Olympic sport in which men and women compete against each other on equal terms.

The Women’s Sports Magazine

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