With the Tokyo summer Olympics fast approaching, we thought it would be fun to visit a sport that does not (yet) qualify for Olympic status, but nonetheless is an interesting, athletic team sport for budding equestrians: the tetrathlon.
Never heard of it? Pony clubbers the world over certainly have, as the sport originated in the Pony Club. The Tetrathlon (tetra means “four”) does away with the pentathlon’s fencing component and focuses instead on riding, running, swimming and shooting. Interesting to note that the sport was launched in 1969 in the United Kingdom as a way of keeping boys interested in Pony Club, but now girls outnumber boys in the events by 2 to 1!
Tetrathlon was introduced in Canada in 1975 and according to the Canadian Pony Club, the sport is very popular across the country, with members competing in local club, regional, national and international meets. Males and females compete in separate divisions, and there are three levels for each: Novice (11 years and under), Junior (12-14 years inclusive) and Senior (15-21 years inclusive).
Here’s how it works: Usually, one skill and one endurance phase is completed on each of two days. For example, shooting and swimming will take place on the first day, with running and riding on the second.
Shooting involves air pistols and targets between 7 and 10 metres, with points scored for the total number of shots ‒ 10 for Novice, and 20 for Junior/Senior ‒ on the target that correspond to the ring number. A perfect shooting score is 1200 points.
Swimming points are scored based on the time it takes to swim 200 metres (Novices only swim 100 metres). An optimum swimming performance results in 1000 points for the athlete.
Running points are scored for the time taken to complete a 2-km cross-country course; obviously the faster you run, the more points you score. An optimum run gets you 1000 points.
During the Riding (and favourite!) phase, competitors must complete a cross-country and show jumping course, with penalty points deducted for refusals, falls and time penalties. The course may also contain a Slip Rail and Gate; the first requires the rider dismount, slide the rail off the jump cup and walk his or her horse over it, while the Gate must be opened, walked through and closed with a loop while mounted. According to the rules, a peak riding round results in 1500 points for the competitor.
Points are then awarded in each of the four events and the winner is the athlete with the highest number of points after completing the four disciplines.
The sport is held during the summer months with national championships at the end of the season. The United States is holding its national meet in Kentucky. The Canadian Pony club did not hold any national events in 2020 due to the pandemic, and the organization will not be holding any in-person events in 2021 either due to travel restrictions. The next international tetrathlon championship will be held in 2022 in Australia.