With the spotlight on the 2012 London Olympic Games in recent weeks, a list of memorable, not so memorable and downright odd Olympic equestrian memories and moments were a must for this blog. I started out with dressage and show jumping moments for part I and in part II, I am covering eventing.
The military, as it was known, was for military officers only. The test was spread over 5 days: day 1: endurance ride of 55 kilometres that took 4 hours followed by a cross-country course that took 15 minutes; day 2 was a rest day; day 3 was a steeplechase including 10 jumps; day 4: a show jumping event and day 5: dressage
There was no dressage included in the military at these games and one portion of the five part test included a ride through the streets. Two rest days was also included!
The FEI was organized in 1921 and they now took control of the Olympic Equestrian events. In a surprise to all, the Dutch won both Team gold and Individual gold; only four years previous the only Dutch rider had placed last.
Public interest in equestrian events had increased dramatically and 60,000 spectators watched the 50 riders on the cross-country course. It was a milestone in the sport. However the course was very tough and a pond that was about a metre deep (39 inches) saw many horses either fall of refuse. However, all of the German team members made it through without a problem, suggesting that the host team might have known the true condition of the obstacle. The Germans won all 6 gold medals.
In the final show jumping event a marker was removed from the course and four riders along with their team were eliminated included the team from Denmark who were in contention for the Gold medal.
For the first time the military allowed non commissioned riders to compete and the sport had taken on a civilian air with many black and red coats amongst the competitors. The civilian riders won one Individual and two Team medals.
The cross-country course at these games was very difficult and required horses and riders to jump concrete pipes from end to end. They measured 1.15 metres high and 1.10 metres long and many horses were injured on the sharp edges. Only 41 of the original 73 horses finished the course and after the vet inspection only 35 horses were deemed fit to continue – less than half the number of original competitors.
Well known event rider William Roycroft rode for the Australian eventing team and was doing well until he and his horse fell on the cross-country course. Roycroft was injured and airlifted to hospital, dashing the hopes of the Australian team. Determined not to let his team down Roycroft discharged himself from hospital and with one arm in a sling he was lifted onto his horse to ride a clear show jumping round, leading the Australian team to a gold medal.
The travel distance of 8 thousand kilometers to Japan from Europe and America saw fewer numbers of competitors compete and three horses died from the after effects of the long air flight. The cross-country course had to be created on the lava covered terrain beside an active volcano and the result was unnatural looking without any water jumps or drops.
Eventing had been an all-male sport until these Olympics when Helena DuPont broke the barrier by riding for the US Team, which captured a Silver team medal.
When event organizers and designers planned the cross-country portion at these Games they forgot about the daily torrential downpours that turned streams into raging torrents. The rains began to fall just as the thirtieth of the forty nine riders started and the waterways turned dangerous. Although the rains lasted only 30 minutes, the penultimate obstacle, a 2 meter wide stream, became swollen to 12 meters in width and flooded the entire take off point for the horses. It is incredible the 14 of the remaining 19 horses got through safely.
The combined eventing competition was held at Bromont, Quebec about an hour from Montreal. Designed by the late Canadian judge and horsewoman Barbara Kemp, the course received high praise for its challenges, safe jumps and its variety and thoughtful lay out asking technical questions spaced evenly along the route and not all in one place as with some previous Olympic cross-country courses.
The 1996 Games with the hot summer temperatures of Georgia was the ideal place to test new cooling methods including misting fans for horses after the cross-country phase and added an additional hold during Phase C to ensure the horses were cooling properly. The effects of heat and the different cooling methods were also studied and yielded a lot of valuable information and debunked several myths. This information has proven valuable to horsemen in a wide variety of disciplines. This was the first time where an extensive veterinary study was conducted in conjunction with the Games.
Combined eventing was in for some major changes as the IOC debated whether or not to continue holding eventing as an Olympic sport due to the amount of space needed to hold an event of this caliber.
The traditional Endurance test, known as the “classic format,” included roads and tracks (Phase A and C), steeplechase (Phase B), and cross-country (Phase D). At the 2004 Olympics, the “short format” was introduced, removing phases A, B, and C from the endurance day. This format has drawn criticism from various members of the sport, but is now considered to be the “standard” competition format at all levels.