[REAL VERSION] London 2012

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Olympics Primer: How to Watch Equestrian Events

Your cheat sheet for watching equestrian events at the Olympics.

By Jon Schuppe
|  Friday, Jul 27, 2012  |  Updated 1:23 PM CDT
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Athletes to Watch: London 2012

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Horse rider Phillip Dutton is on the U.S. equestrian team competing at the 2012 London Olympics.

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When it happens:
July 28 to Aug. 9

How it became a sport:
Like the Olympics, the sport of horse riding dates backs to the ancient Greeks, who developed what became known as dressage (French for “training”) as a method of training for war. It was crucial in those times for a horse in battle to adeptly and suddenly shift directions. Those skills faded with the Greek empire, and were revived as an art form in Europe during the 1700s. That became the basis of modern competitive dressage, which was introduced to the modern Olympics in 1912. The two other equestrian competitions are eventing, which also originated as a form of military training and is considered the triathlon of horse sports, and jumping, which has its roots in fox hunting.

In the early Olympics, only male military officers were permitted to compete. The restriction was eased for the 1952 Games for dressage, and later in other events. To this day, equestrian remains the only Olympic sport in which the two sexes compete on even playing fields, in individual and team formats of all three disciplines.

What it takes:
In dressage, riders are judged by their ability to communicate with their horse as they progress through a series of prearranged moves. Riders cannot use their voice or whips, although spurs are required.

In jumping, the rider and horse proceed through an obstacle course of hurdles and water.

Eventing is held over four days and combines three disciplines: dressage, jumping and cross-country. The first two are staged in the same way as in the individual events, only less rigorously. Cross-country is a long distance race across a field of obstacles.

How you win:
Dressage: Five judges evaluate riders’ and horses’ moves on a scale of 0 to 10, with extra “collective” marks for “freedom and regularity” of steps, the “impulsion” of the horse, the submission of the horse, and the rider’s posture. Each judge’s score is averaged out for a total score. Riders compete in two events: Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle, the scores of which are averaged for a final score. Winning teams hold the highest total score among its three top riders.

Jumping: Riders must complete the obstacle course in a certain amount of time, with points subtracted for hitting obstacles, landing in water, a horse’s refusal to jump, and for falling. Ties are broken by jump-offs. In team competition, the three best scores from each squad are used.

Eventing: Dressage and jumping are scored in the same basic way as in the individual events. In cross-country, riders have a certain amount of time to finish the course, with penalties for disobedience and for falls.

What’s the lingo?
Canter: One of the moves tested in dressage. It is one of a horse’s gaits, slower than a gallop.

Halt: A dressage move. When the horse stands attentive and motionless, with all four legs straight and even.

Lath: The white strip on the edge of a water obstacle that, if touched by a horse, is scored as a fault.

Optimum time: The target time in the cross-country event.

Passage: A dressage move. A forward, slow motion trot.

Piaffe: A dressage move. A high-stepping trot in which the horse’s opposing feet are alternately raised and lowered.

Pirouette: A dressage move in which a horse rotates in a perfect circle.

Trot: A dressage move in which a moves its diagonally opposing legs at the same pace.

More information:
NBC Olympics

The Telegraph

London 2012

Olympic.org

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