As equestrian Olympians prepare for the London 2012 games, there has been some concern over the safety of the sport and whether or not it should be retained as a summer sport in the olympic games after London. In recent remarks made by International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Princess Haya, “Anyone who thinks equestrian sports are secure for London is mistaken”(reference). Haya goes on to say that due to low-interest in the dressage discipline, show jumping may also be in jeopardy, as it is highly unlikely that show jumping would be allowed to remain as a standalone equestrian sport in the olympic games. Because cross country requires so much space and very specific location requirements, it too could be in jeopardy.
Another concern faced by equestrian sports is that they are not regarded as a sport with a ‘wide reach’ to the global community like other recognized olympic sports, mainly because of the high cost associated with entering and remaining in the equestrian community. Horses alone can cost upwards of $20,000 (though I am being moderate in my estimate, it is a known fact that most horses that qualify for the olympic level are much closer to the $75,000+ range). Though nearly every country has a team represented in the Equestrian portion of the olympic games, it is readily visible that certain teams have an entirely different caliber of horse than others.
The closest modern equivalent to the original ‘long’ and ‘high jump’ portions that were once in the equestrian olympic discipline is the ‘puissance wall’ jump utilized in certain Grand Prix competitions, though very rarely.
Like other olympic sports, equestrian disciplines have also suffered due to instances of doping (though historically, very few olympic sports haven’t had a drug scandal), and this too has contributed to growing concern that the equestrian disciplines hay be removed following the London 2012 games. However if show jumping and dressage are allowed to remain in the games, the olympic committee would stand to benefit from some unique facets of these disciplines that other sports do not offer: just like the equestrian team at Goucher College, the olympic equestrian disciplines are the only mixed (co-ed) sport offered at the games which has a very mixed field of both female and male competitors. As pointed out by New Zealand Horsetalk, “While many nations have little interest in equestrian pursuits, many of the world’s major sporting nations – with the major exception of China – also do well in equestrian competition, which means television audiences in lucrative markets are reasonably strong” and “The sport is also increasingly popular with some of the new sporting powerbroker nations, especially in the Middle East, which is likely to host an Olympics at some stage in the relatively near future”(reference).
Hopefully the appeal of the equestrian discipline as an exciting sport to watch will help convince those in charge to keep equestrians in the olympics! What’s your take? Should equestrian stay in the olympics? Sound off in the comments below!