Equestrian sports involve horseback riding. A rider and a horse work together as a team to accomplish certain objectives that vary according to the type of event. There are a number of equestrian sports, and most, though not all, are organized by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, which also goes by its French name, the Federation Equestre Internationale. Competitors involved in events organized by the FEI must abide by the rules that the organization sets for each.
Of the FEI equestrian sports, three are included in the Summer Olympic Games every four years. Therefore, they tend to get the most exposure. Nevertheless, many people may not understand the differences among them or what is required for each. What follows is a brief tutorial.
Show jumping is the event that many spectators may be the most familiar with. It may also be the most accessible to the neophyte equestrian spectator. The horse and rider must navigate a course set up with a number of obstacles that they must jump over. The obstacles usually consist of a pole held in place by horse jump cups approximately six feet up into the air. The horse-and-rider team lose points for mistakes like touching the pole or falling over. They also have a set time limit in which to complete the course.
Dressage involves the horses moving in particular configurations which resemble a sort of equine ballet dance. The objective is for the horse and rider to demonstrate the level of skill they have attained through training together. The horse is expected to carry the rider with grace and ease.
This is a combination event that involves elements of both dressage and jumping. Horse-and-rider teams are expected to perform within a set time frame and not go over or under. They also lose points if the rider falls off or the horse refuses to jump.
Equestrian athletes can have remarkable longevity in the sport. It is one of the few disciplines in which male and female athletes, both human and equine, compete against one another.