Six Amazing Equestrian Sports

In order to practice equestrian sports, it's necessary to have access to at least one horse. Unbelievably, these are some of the most ancient sports out there. 
Six Amazing Equestrian Sports

Last update: 10 December, 2019

Equestrian sports are a type of discipline that uses horses as a means of transport. Today we’ll tell you everything you need to know about them.

What sports are equestrian?

Equestrian sports can be Olympic or not, involve racing, jumping, dressage, equipment or traction. They’re sports in which the athlete uses a horse during a competition or training. Some of them are:

1. Cross-country riding

It’s one of the three Olympic disciplines, along with show jumping and dressage. The competition takes place in three days and the goal is to demonstrate the endurance, speed and jumping ability of the horse, as well as their training and riding capabilities.

The race has different obstacles that the rider must jump over, such as fences, lakes, gates, etc. Points are subtracted when the horse touches or disarms them when jumping.

2. Showjumping: equestrian sports

It’s an equestrian discipline that consists of jumping a series of obstacles in a pre-established order. The rider and the horse are basically a team, and therefore both are evaluated. 

A horse on a show jumping competition.

There are several different penalties in the competition, according to the International Federation of Equestrian Sports (FEI): four faults for obstacle knockdowns, touching the water with the legs, leaving a mark on the jumping ribbon, refusal from the horse to execute commands, fall of the horse or the rider or both, skipping mandatory steps or exceeding the time allowance.

3. Dressage

Dressage is one of the equestrian sports in the Olympics program since 1912. The goal of this discipline is to train a horse and make it more docile, agile, flexible and obedient.

Dressage: an equestrian sport.

The arena where dressage takes place can be small (40 x 20 meters) or standard (60 x 20 meters), and the difficulty increases depending on the category. The best horse breeds for dressage are the Dutch warmblood, the Hanoverian, the Danish warmblood, the Oldenburg horse, and the Westphalian horse.

4. Equestrian sports: polo

This equestrian sport is a horseback mounted team sport. Two teams of four riders each, try to get a wooden (or plastic) ball through the opponent’s goal by using a mallet.

Expensive sports: Polo.

The polo arena is a grass field of 300 by 160 yards. Even if it looks like a relatively new sport, it’s actually one of the most ancient team sports, which originated in Central Asia, and one of the most expensive. Currently, the game consists of six periods called chukkers.

Another curious fact about polo is that it used to be an Olympic sport between 1900 and 1936.

5. Turf

Many use this term when referring to horse racing, given that turf means “grass” in British English, which is where this sport originated from. However, several discoveries show that in ancient Greece horse racing was already prominent.

The horses who race are warmblood, quarters or Akhal-Teke, which are well balanced, have a great temper and are incredibly fast.

Races take place in an enclosure called a hippodrome, which has sand or grass, surrounded by embankments with seats for the spectators. The riders are called jockeys, and gambling is allowed; you can win for first, second and third place, and there are also prices for exacta, trifecta, and superfecta.

6. Endurance riding

This isn’t just another speed equestrian sport: it puts, as the name says, physical and psychological endurance to the test, both for the horse and the rider.

Endurance riding: an equestrian sport.

In endurance riding, participants have to travel long distances in one day. In fact, the longest ones are 100 miles long. The tests consist of phases or stages with resting time in between. At the end of the race, the horse’s heart rate must be under 64 bpm in order to continue.

Finally, let’s go over some other equestrian sports worth knowing about:

  • Horseball, which is a combination of rugby, polo, and basketball.
  • Reining, a riding competition.
  • Buzkashi, the national sport in Afganistan.
  • Pato, which originates from Argentina and combines polo and basketball.
  • Combined driving, involving carriages.
  • And Tent pegging, with riders who carry swords to pick up objects.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.