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Equestrian

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The history of equestrian sport dates back over 2,000 years, and has been closely tied to military training throughout its evolution.  In its modern form, Equestrian owes much to its inclusion in the Olympic Games, which led to the creation of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) in 1921.  Equestrian is the only sport in which men and women compete against each other on equal terms and it is also the only one in which humans and animals compete together.

Equestrian Facts

  • Only sport where men and women compete against each other
  • Only sport where humans and animals compete together
  • Dressage means “to train”

At the BC Summer Games, there are five equestrian disciplines: dressage, show jumping, reining, vaulting and para-dressage.  English disciplines such as dressage and show jumping are based in training cavalry horses, while Western disciplines are based on skills a horse needs to work on a cattle ranch.

Dressage is similar to compulsory figures in figure skating with a set pattern every rider rides, while show jumping is all about who can jump the highest, in the shortest time.  Reining demonstrates the horses’ ability to accelerate, stop and turn fast enough to catch a cow and vaulting combines gymnastics and dance-like movements to music while on top of a moving horse.  Para-equestrian sport is based on the principle that a disability should not impede anyone from competing in equestrian sports.  Athletes are classified so that they compete against other athletes with a similar level of ability.  

When watching equestrian sport, try and see when and how the rider signals the horse.  Often you will not see any signal or “aid” and it will appear as if the horse is doing things by him/herself.  The more skilled the rider and the more training the horse has had, the more invisible the signals will be.

Many of the competitors at the BC Summer Games have trained their horses themselves which requires a great deal of commitment in time and training.  Not only is the rider considered the athlete, but the horse is also an athlete who requires specialized care and consideration.  The athletes at the Games are 13-18 years old and are experienced competitors looking ahead to one day representing Canada in international competition.

The Horse Council of BC is the organization responsible for the development of equestrian sport, as well as actively representing the equine industry in agriculture, industry, sport, and recreation.  With a membership of over 22,000, they provide education, grant funding, club support, government lobbying, liability insurance, and participant programs.