So my Olympic obsession this week has led me to do some research on dressage at the Olympics! So here are some of the interesting things I found out! Dressage made its first appearance in the Olympics in 1900 and then wasn’t seen again until 1912. Since 1912 it has been in every Summer Olympics. While modern ‘equestrian’ events include dressage, show jumping and eventing at times it has included vaulting, polo, driving, and hunter divisions. Until 1948 equestrian disciplines where strictly military events and they competed in their informal dress uniforms! In 1952 women were allowed to participate in dressage only as show jumping and eventing were considered too dangerous (tell that to B. Madden)! In 1956 women were allowed in jumping and in 1964 in eventing. The equestrian disciplines are the only ones where men and women compete in all forms on equal footing. Tennis, badminton and sailing have some divisions of mixed-doubles or joint teams but they do not have gender neutral participation across the board as we do in the equestrian disciplines!
Originally dressage had a jumping component! There was also a timing factor and a 2 point deduction for each second you went over time! Only individual medals were awarded until 1924 when the team medals were added. Equestrian events are the only Olympic events where people compete with animals. We also have the distinction of having the oldest Olympians at every Olympics ranging in age from 60-a record 72 held by an Austrian. 69 countries have sent 2129 competitors (1751 men and 378 women) to the Olympics in equestrian events. The equestrian events are also unique in that twice they have held their events separate from the rest of the Olympic events. In 2008 the equestrian events were in Hong Kong and not Beijing due to concerns of animal health. But at least they were in the same country. In 1958 at the Australian Olympics the agricultural rules for quarantine would not be waived for Olympic horses so they held the 1958 equestrian events 6 months earlier in Stockholm, Sweden! Canadian Ian Miller holds the record for attending the most Olympics in not only equestrian events but overall at 9 Olympic appearances! There is a three way tie for the most number of medals at 8 between the two Germans Reiner Klimke and Isabell Werth and the DutchAnky Van Grunsven. Germany holds the record for the most dressage medals at a total 42 with 21 gold! Sweden is next with 41 medals and 17 gold medals. France is in third with 34 overallmedals and 12 gold. The U.S has 8 with no gold and only one individual medal in 1932 when Hiram Tuttle won both the bronze in team and individual! His teammates were Issac Kitts and Alvin Moore. The only silver medal was the team medal in 1948 won by Robert Borg, Earl Thomson and Frank Henry. Robert Dover holds the current record of 4 team bronze medals in the 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 games to make him the most decorated Olympic dressage medalist in US history. Gunter Seidel holds a close second with 3 team bronze medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004. The remaining team bronze medalists with one each are in 1976 Hilda Gurney, Dorothy Morkis, and Edith Master. In 1992 the additional riders were Michael Poulin, CarolLavell and Charlotte Bredahl. In 1996 in addition to Robert and Gunter were Michelle Gibson and Steffen Peters. In 2000 the team of riders rounded out with Sue Blinks and Christine Traurig! Finally the 2004 team again had Robert and Gunter but this time the ladies were Debbie MacDonald and Lisa Wilcox! That is if I am adding right 15 men and 10 women. That’s a 3/2 ratio. I think that is pretty good gender equality given that the total of 1751 men and 378 women is a much bigger difference of nearly 5 to 1!
Well that is my short dip into Dressage Olympic history! I will admit to being a bit awed since moving to Albert Court that sometimes I am in the ring and I look around and get the honor and privilege to be in there in some way with both Christine and Gunter! I hope I can absorb in my mind, in my physical riding and even by osmosis every ounce of knowledge I can. If not I have to say just being in their air is often inspiration enough!