polo, vaulting, four-in-hand driving, mail coach driving, mixed hacks and hunters and three types of jumping events: high jump, long jump, and show-jumping. Sounds a bit more like track and field don't you think?
Today's more modern events (three-day eventing, dressage and show-jumping plus the equestrian portion of the modern pentathlon) are rooted in cavalry skills and classical horsemanship. Through 1948, only active-duty officers on military horses were allowed to compete.
The equestrian events are the only Olympic events in which an animal competes and is only one of three events in which he genders are on the same level playing field. Sailing and mixed doubles in badminton (and I guess we should add tennis to that same list).
Did you know that at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne Australia, the equestrian portion was actually held in Stockholm, Sweden due to Australian quarantine laws?
The oldest rider to ride in the Olympics was 72-year old Arthur von Pongracz of Austria in 1936 in dressage. (He died at age 77). The youngest was 16-year old Luiza Almeida of Brazil at the 2008 summer Olympics. Here is a photo of Almeida:
Canadian rider Ian Miller holds the record of the most Olympic equestrian appearances and matches the record for athletes in any sport, having competed in an amazing nine Olympics as of 2008.
Pretty cool stuff!