Skill in horse riding, as practised under Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI; International Equestrian Federation) rules. An Olympic sport, there are three main branches of equestrianism: showjumping, dressage, and three-day eventing. Three other disciplines are under the authority of the FEI: carriage driving, endurance riding, and vaulting.
Since 1990 the world championships in all disciplines except endurance riding are held at a combined World Equestrian Games rather than staged separately as was hitherto the case. The venues for the World Equestrian Games have been Stockholm, Sweden (1990), The Hague, the Netherlands (1994), Rome, Italy (1998), and Jerez, Spain (2002).
Showjumping is horse-jumping over a course of fences. The winner is usually the competitor with fewest ‘faults’ (penalty marks given for knocking down or refusing fences), but in timed competitions it is the competitor completing the course most quickly, additional seconds being added for mistakes.
Dressage tests the horse's obedience skills and the rider's control. Tests consist of a series of movements at walk, trot, and canter, with each movement marked by judges who look for suppleness, balance, and a special harmony between rider and horse. The term is derived from the French ‘dresser’, which means training.
Three-Day Eventing tests the all-round abilities of a horse and rider in dressage, cross-country, and showjumping.
The major showjumping events include the World Championship, first held in 1953 for men, and in 1965 for women (although since 1978 men and women have competed together); the European Championship, first held in 1957; and the British Showjumping Derby, first held in 1962. In three-day eventing, the first Badminton Horse Trials were held in 1949 and the first World Championship in 1966. Equestrian events have been held at the Olympic Games since 1912.
The safety of three-day eventing was called into question in 1999 after an unprecedented spate of fatal accidents at the British horse trials. Between May and September, four riders, including the British Olympic prospect Polly Phillipps, were killed.
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