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Olympic 2004 Tidbits

QUALIFYING:  Team qualifying is based on International Competition at FEI rated shows.  This can require some travel--for example, the NZ team had to qualify at Aachen, Germany.
Individual qualifying is like many sports--for example gymnastics.  Based on year or even longer competitive results and what horse/rider teams are "best at this time".  Generally, trials are held within two months or so of the actualy competition, and decisions are based on those.
HORSES COMPETING: Olympics are totally egalitarian in terms of breeds competing.  While generally certain breeds that have been bred for specific sports or as sporthorses will emerge at the top, as horse breeding is a very scientific process based on proven abilities and often the breed organizations require performance testing for registration,  any breed or mixture thereof of horse can qualify and compete.  
   See "Breeds of horses competing" for specific info on breeds at the 2004 Olympics.



EQUESTRIAN SPORTS remain the only Olympic sport that men and women compete directly and head-to-head as equals….except for the "better horse" of course!  Or the "better trained and/or ridden"!  T


AGE (Human) is not a barrier to continued participation in equestrian sports.  Oldest medal winner—Josef Neckerman at age 65 winning the gold in dressage.

    This year, NBC says that Ian Miller ofCanada is the oldest competitor at 58, his first Olympics being in 1972. 

    A close second may be G.Stibbes of Netherlands Antindes on the 3 day team at age 55.  Add a few years to that age for what most of us would age if we tried those cross country fences!


FAMILY TIES-We have seen many siblings on Olympic teams—diving and gymnastics noteably—and in most sports, the parent is beyond competing in top competition when their children are competing at the top levels.  While parents are often invaluable in terms of support and coaches (or fall into the dreaded "stage parent" role) in all sports, in equestrian sports the parents can continue to compete with their children...which makes this sport very unique.

   There is a possibility of the whole family being on a team…and this year that almost occurred—the Netherlands dressage team this year included the daughter of a 2000 team member.   There are additionally other sons and daughters of former Olympic team members competing this year.

    Several sibling combinations or in-laws are on various teams in Athens.


AGE (HORSES)--LONG LIFE FOR HORSES IS MORE THAN PASTURES AT THE OLYMPICS--take a look at the ages of many of the sporthorses in all the disciplines and you will find many "AGED"--generally considered to be over 15 yo--and competing very successfully.  Most of the Jumping horses were over 10, 9 being considered "young".

    The oldest horse competing in the very grueling 3 day competition is Poggio II from the US at age 18; several other horses in 3 day were around this age.

    Due to the demanding nature of the Olympic disciplines--and competition at this level--this is a very real tribute to the training and care that these equine athletes have received from their human athletes!

    And it makes Sporthorses one of the equestrian disciplines that  provide top level competition for horses throughout the duration of their lives. 



TOUGHER DRESSAGE AND JUMPING TESTS FOR 3 DAY—Eventing has made a lot of changes the last couple of years.  At the 2004 Olympics this included more demanding dressage and show jumping phases.  The televised portions reflected this and was good to see.


DRESSAGE GETS ANOTHER "BUM RAP"--Can't just everybody see how beautiful and physically and mentally demanding dressage is?

   Evidently not.

   A TV commentator opened the Team Dressage competition with a blurb from "The 2004 Official Summer Olympics Book"--that, well, equated dressage with knitting in terms of "action" value!  (To her credit, she then defended dressage. )


   Being equated with "cement drying" was "bad enough" for those interested in "action value".  Gymnastics is really an equivilent, however there is a big difference between training yourself and training yourself and a this seems to go unnoticed.  As with ballet--which other than gymnastics is most often the comparism made to explain what dressage is to the layperson.

    Dressage enthusiasts have to educate audiences on that when they "watch cement dry" or "grass grow" (some of the former characterizations of lower level dressage)...they will be able to see the subtleties of the movements, and fully appreciate it for the training and schooling that has gone into the performance...and then the aesthetic value.  Like gymnastics.  Or ballet. Without the "oh no--not dressage!"!


JUMPING remains the real "crowd draw" for equestrian sports--straightforward and simple--just get over the jumps within a certain time--most of the public can understand it.  Like hurdles in track and other Olympic sports, with the beauty and dynamicness of the horse added.


JUMPING-Ian Miller of Canada is making his NINTH Olympics showing--and is considered a contender!
SHOWING OUTSIDE--LUCK OF THE DRAW--the first hour or so of the qualifying round of jumping, the sun was a big factor in the way it was shining on some of the jumps.  From what the TV commentators said, the sun was reflecting off of some of the brown poles, making it difficult for the horses and riders to clearly see them.
Bad luck for those with early draws! (the order of go was determined by a drawing).
    And during the Dressage Grand Prix Special on Mon Aug 23, the FEI press reported that the wind was a factor in the competition.
    Well, it was not raining!
TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP ENDS IN A TIE--There had to be a jump-off in the team jumping championship this year--see the link above for further info.
INDIVIDUAL JUMPING SILVER AND BRONZE ENDS IN A TIE--Brazils Pessoa and US Kappler jump off.  Brazil wins due to US pulling up lame.  Pulled flexor tendon on a landing.
JUMPING--INDIVIDUAL GOLD WINNER FIRST FOR COUNTRY--Ireland had not ever won a jumping medal?  The FEI info says so anyway--first jumping medal for Ireland goes to Cian O'Conner who just burst onto the International competitive scene.
(Ireland has a long very respected history associated with horses and horse breeding, esp. racing and sporthorses, so it seems strange that they would not have ever won a medal in an Olympic event).
JUMP SIZES--for the techies, go to the FEI link  (, click on Rules and Regulations (right hand column), then link on to the Olympics rules and regs.  This should bring up a PDF document of all the rules for the 2004 competition. (have-to-have-adobe-to-access).
Pages 27-30 have all the info on sizes and other aspects for the courses.
    For all others, the team course was basically 4ft9in to 5.0ft; jumpoff slightly higher minimum--5.2ft.
    Individual is basically the same --water jump is 4.3meters* spread; jump spreads are 1.5m-2.0 with 2.2 for the triple bar; length of course is 600-700m.
     Individual finals is a different course with a double and treble shortened to 500-600m.
     Note that the individual qualifying and finals were held on the same day.
(*1m=just under 1.1 yard; auto convert at


Copyright 2004 ler