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Equestrian 101: History

Equestrian 101: History
Posted at 10:45 AM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 14:30:32-04

Rio, 2016

Germany continued its equestrian dominance during the Rio Olympics, capturing the gold in team dressage and individual eventing, the silver in individual dressage and team eventing and the bronze in team jumping. Michael Jung took home the gold in individual eventing for the second consecutive Olympics, as he also won gold in 2012 in London.

The Rio Games weren't quite as kind to the Americans as they were to the Germans, though the U.S. didn't come home without any medals. Phillip Dutton won the bronze in individual eventing while the United States also captured silver in team jumping and bronze in team dressage.

London, 2012

Great Britain stole the show on home soil, earning three of six gold medals. In her Olympic debut, Charlotte Dujardin won double gold in team and individual dressage. The London favorite broke the record for the highest Olympic dressage score when she earned 83.874 percent in the team Grand Prix. Great Britain also took gold in team jumping, its first medal in the event since the 1984 Games. 

It was a disappointing showing for the Americans who, for the first time since the 1956 Olympics when they did not participate, left the Games empty handed. The two-time Olympic team showjumping champions tied for sixth. 

Beijing, 2008

The United States won team gold in jumping in dramatic fashion in Beijing. At the end of the final round, Canada and the United States were tied, leading to a jump-off. The U.S. came through in the clutch, riding three clean rounds in the jump-off to take the gold medal. American Beezie Madden also claimed bronze in individual jumping, with Canada's Eric Lamaze taking the gold medal.

Germany claimed three of the six equestrian gold medals: Team eventing and team dressage, as well as team member Hinrich Romeike's individual gold medal in eventing. Isabell Werth won silver in individual dressage and Heike Kemmer claimed bronze in the same event to give Germany a total of five equestrian medals.

Athens, 2004

After a silver debut in Sydney, Leslie Law of Great Britain captured his first gold medal in individual eventing. Four years earlier, Law was a key member of Great Britain's eventing team that won the silver medal. Law had the second-best score on the team, which was crucial after teammate Ian Stark withdrew following the cross-country phase, meaning the three remaining riders' scores all counted in the final standings. Law was selected to compete at the 1996 Atlanta Games, but his horse, New Flavour, went lame on arrival.

Led by defending gold medallists Ludger Beerbaum, and Otto Becker, Germany earned its third consecutive Olympic team show jumping title, clinching gold after only three rides in the four-ride final. A flawless ride by Beezie Madden earned the Americans silver while Sweden took bronze. Two horses were injured in early rounds. The Argentine horse Who Knows Lilly and the French horse Dileme de Cephe both injured tendons and were treated at a local veterinary hospital.

Sydney, 2000

American David O'Connor, a 38-year-old who claimed silver (1996) and bronze (2000) in team eventing competitions, became the first American gold medallist in individual eventing since Edmund "Tad" Coffin in 1976.

Germany captured its fifth consecutive Olympic title in team dressage, and sixth in as many attempts dating back to 1976 (West Germany boycotted in 1980). Isabell Werth, who led all riders with a score of 1908, earned her fourth career gold. The Dutch team finished runner-up for the third consecutive Games. The Americans rallied for third, when Christine Traurig, the final rider in the competition, tallied 1746 points - just 17 points more than she needed.

Atlanta, 1996

At the 1996 Games, the host United States was the only country to win a medal in all three team events. Overcoming the Georgia heat -- with huge misting fans and extra horse trainers on hand for the endurance leg -- the Americans claimed silver in eventing. The U.S. also added silver in team jumping and bronze in the team dressage.

Barcelona, 1992

There was individual parity in Barcelona with seven equestrian riders claiming two medals apiece, but Germany once again dominated with seven medals.

Seoul, 1988

The West Germans won all three team competitions, marking the first time since 1936 that a nation turned that hat trick in a non-boycotted Olympics. In team dressage, 52-year-old Reiner Klimke, participating in his sixth Olympics for West Germany, became the most decorated equestrian rider in Olympic history when he claimed his eighth gold medal.

Los Angeles, 1984

Twenty years after American Lana duPont became the first woman to compete in eventing in 1964, compatriot Karen Stives claimed the silver to become the first woman to earn a medal in the event.

Moscow, 1980

The U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Games prompted alternate competitions for Western riders. The jumping competition was held in Rotterdam, Holland; eventing was contested in Fountainbleau, France; and dressage was held in Goodwood, Great Britain. In the official Olympic equestrian competition, the Soviet Union won eight medals, more than half of its all-time total in the sport (15).

Montreal, 1976

West Germany's Alwin Schockemohle, a 39-year-old factory worker, was the first rider to complete the Olympic individual jumping event without a fault since 1928.

Great Britain's Princess Anne competed in Montreal's individual eventing competition. She fell during the endurance phase but remounted and completed the course, finishing 24th.

Munich, 1972

At the 1972 Games, West Germany's Liselott Linsenhoff became the first woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal in equestrian when she captured the individual dressage crown. Women made up 21 of the 33 riders competing in the event.

Mexico City, 1968

Parity was the theme for equestrian in Mexico City. Five athletes tied for the individual medal lead with two medals apiece. West Germany and Great Britain also tied for the most team equestrian medals with four apiece.

Tokyo, 1964

Germany claimed six medals in equestrian, leading all countries. Those included team gold in jumping and dressage. The United States managed one equestrian medal, a team silver in the three day event.

Rome, 1960

Despite breaking his collarbone and suffering from a concussion in a fall during the endurance test, Australia's Bill Roycroft checked out of the hospital in order to compete in the final jumping phase of the team eventing competition. His attendance ensured Australia would win the gold medal. Roycroft's accident was not the only one in eventing -- two horses were killed on the dangerous endurance course.

Melbourne, 1956

Strict quarantine laws made taking horses to Melbourne in November impractical, so the 1956 Olympic equestrian events were competed in Stockholm in June, separate from the rest of the competition. Host Sweden performed well, winning individual titles in eventing (Petrus Kastenman) and dressage (Henri Saint Cyr), and also taking a second consecutive gold in team dressage.

Helsinki, 1952

As the final competitors in Helsinki's team jumping competition, Harry Llewellyn and his horse, Foxhunter, clinched a British comeback to win gold. Foxhunter was given credit for the victory and became a national hero. It is rumored the horse could sign his name, and people sent him autograph requests and fan mail. After he died, Foxhunter's skeleton was preserved in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Women competed for the first time in Olympic equestrian in 1952. After suffering a polio attack in 1944 at the age of 23, Denmark's Lis Hartel began a grueling program to regain the use of her limbs. Eight years later in Helsinki, Hartel captured the silver medal in individual dressage, becoming the first woman to win an Olympic equestrian medal. Paralyzed below the knees and walking with a crutch, Hartel was helped by gold medallist Henri Saint Cyr of Sweden in getting onto the medal stand, creating one of the more touching scenes of the Games.

London, 1948

On a difficult jumping course, only three of the 14 teams were able to finish the competition intact, giving Mexico the gold medal, Spain the silver and host Great Britain the bronze.

Berlin, 1936

Host Germany won all six gold medals, marking the only time one country won every equestrian event. Lt. Konrad von Wangenheim's heroic efforts in the team eventing competition made the sweep possible. Von Wangenheim was thrown off his horse in the cross-country event and broke his collarbone. He was able to finish the course to prevent Germany from being disqualified. In the jumping competition the next day, von Wangenheim was again thrown. The German was able to remount and finish the course, helping his team take the gold medal. Notably, Austria's Arthur von Pongracz competed at age 72.

Los Angeles, 1932

Japan's Lt. Takeichi Nishi won Asia's first and only equestrian medal when he claimed the gold in the individual jumping competition. A member of the Japanese Army, he served at Iwo Jima during World War II. When American soldiers heard Nichi is on the island they try to meet him, but they were too late. Realizing that Iwo Jima was going to fall, the Japanese gold medallist joined in a mass suicide.

Amsterdam, 1928

The Dutch took advantage of being on their home soil, leading all countries with four medals in equestrian. The Netherlands won team gold in the three day event

Paris, 1924

Sloan Doak became the first American to win an individual medal in equestrian, claiming bronze in the three day event. Austria's Arthur von Pongracz also competed in the equestrian field for the first time at the remarkable age of 60. He would go on to compete again in 1928 and 1936.

Antwerp, 1920

Much like 1912, Sweden dominated, claiming nine medals, including gold in team jumping and the three day event.

Stockholm, 1912

Sweden led the way with six medals but it was France's Jacques Cariou who won the most medals: Gold in individual jumping, silver in team jumping and bronze in the individual three day event. The United States won its first-ever equestrian medal in Stockholm, claiming team bronze in the three day event.

Paris, 1900

Equestrian became an Olympic event with the individual jumping competition. In 1912, team jumping, individual dressage and eventing (team, individual) were added. Team dressage was added in 1928 to round out the six events that are competed today.

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