What Exactly is Equestrian?

Equestrian is a term that speaks of riding horses. It is a broad term for not only riding horses for general recreation but also applies to competitive activities and sports such as horseball, carriage driving, show jumping, polo, riding shows, fox hunting, and rodeos. Then one cannot leave out the ever popular horse racing. In just about each part of the world there is ready access to horse trails. Along with that there are literally hundreds of parks that will offer guided and individual tours via horseback. In previous times before the invention of high powered artillery and vehicles, equestrians were associated with the military. Medieval knights were known as some of the first equestrians.

Horse racing is the largest equestrian activity in the world. There is a natural desire from people to find out which horse is faster than all the rest. Many types of horse racing exist in the world today ranging from thoroughbred flat racing to Arabian horse racing to quarter horse racing. These are types of races involving horses in arenas where gambling is legal for such events. To fully understand Arabian horse races, please view the movie "Hidalgo." Of course there is fiction in the movie but it gives good view of the general aspects.

What many people may not be fully aware of is that equestrian is an Olympic event during the Summer Games every four years. There are several forms of equestrianism that are recognized and thus a part of the Olympics. The first part is what is known as Dressage, which literally means training in French. This consists of the horse carrying out, upon formal request, the movements that performs free and clear of anything while the rider is still on the horse. It is about as free as the horse may come while still giving someone a ride. Then there is also what is known as show jumping. This event is timed and requires that the horse jump over a series of already in place obstacles, with a minimal amount of refusals and/or knocking down of jumps. Some heights of jumps may be as large as six feet tall.

The last part of equestrian that one might see in the Olympics is that of eventing which is a complete test of the horse. It combines all the efforts of dressage and then pulls in the athletic ability of show jumping, and then adding in endurance as a final part of the test.

Outside of Olympic equestrian events, the only form of this sport that many people may be familiar with is western type of riding. This type of riding came from the cattle working days of the mid and late 1800s. The horse wore a reign and was able to be controlled by this when the rider would turn it slightly because they could only have one hand free to control the horse, as the other was probably occupied with a lariat.

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