Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics US Equestrian Team
- July 20, 2021
- Jolyn Young
It’s almost time for the 2021 Summer Olympics, officially called “Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.” They were originally scheduled for last year, but cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic; hence the slightly confusing date in the name. Anyway, regardless of what year they’re known as and held in, it’s the Summer Games, so you know what that means – horses!
There aren’t any western events at the Olympics, but the line up of equestrian talent promises to be good watching nonetheless. Three events are featured – jumping, eventing, and dressage. Horse and rider teams compete individually and as a team for their country. The US jumping team includes two-time gold medalist McLain Ward, Kent Farrington, Laura Kraut, and Jessica Springsteen. This is one event where age appears to be a benefit; Ward is 45, Farrington is 40, Kraut is 55, and Springsteen is a youthful 29. Also of note: Springsteen is the daughter of legendary rocker Bruce Springsteen.
The US jumping team includes Adrienne Lyle, Steffen Peters, Sabine Schut-Kery. Again, experience seems to be an advantage, as ages range from 56 to 36. Our eventing team consists of Phillip Dutton, Doug Payne, and Boyd Martin.
For those not in the know (which is probably the bulk of western readers), here’s a quick rundown of each of the three equestrian disciplines represented at the Summer Games:
Also known as “three-day eventing,” this event, as its name suggests, spans three days. Riders must complete cross-country jumping, dressage, and stadium jumping classes. The cross-country component includes up to 40 man-made and natural obstacles and can cover up to 4 miles. The next day, each rider must compete a dressage test, followed by a stadium jumping course on the third and final day. All of this must be completed on the same horse. Talk about a true test of skill and endurance for both horse and rider! These competitors aren’t wrestling steers or riding broncs (hopefully – or maybe not, depending on the level of entertainment the viewer is seeking), but they are definitely as mentally tough and physically fit as the best western rider.
Show jumping courses in the Summer Olympics are colorful and include many twists and turns meant to show off a horse and rider’s abilities. Riders must control the length of their horse’s stride in between jumps to correctly jump the obstacle. Fences can be up to 5.2 feet high and 6.25 feet wide. Horses are usually Thoroughbred or warmblood in breeding and stand over 16 hands tall. It takes a lot of horse to go over those big jumps!
This is sometimes considered the ultimate test in refinement at a high level of training. In western riding parlance, we’d say “that thar horse is pretty dang broke.” In English dressage competitions, called “tests,” those thar horses perform their maneuvers in a harmonious and fluid manner, responding to almost imperceptible signals from their riders. Simplicity and refinement are evident in all aspects, from the rider’s highly stylized outfit (top hat, anyone?) to the square white saddle pad and seamless canter departures.
This year, the Summer Olympics run from July 23 to August 8. To view the complete schedule of equestrian events on NBC.com, click here.
About Jolyn Young
Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....