Equestrian Roots: Fun Facts

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Equestrian riding is not only a sport, but an art expressing tribute to the history of the relationship between horse and rider. Through various customs, such as the manner of mounting to the “forward seat” position, riders habitually honor the roots of the sport without necessarily realizing it. Below are some fun facts about the evolution of equestrian riding and the reflection of it in riders’ everyday routines:

Left Side Mount/Dismount

The act of getting on and off a horse through the animal’s left side is probably one of the first lessons a rider learns and rarely questions. This habit, however, dates back to thousands of years ago when horse and man were war companions and the sword was carried in a scabbard on the left-hand side. Thus, mounting and (hopefully) dismounting from the left was the practical manner and now the norm.

Dressage since 360 BC

Dressage, is known as the “highest expression of horse training” since its birth. Although a dressage horse’s movements are known today for its beauty, elegance, and precision, they were once developed as strategies for the battlefield, as these maneuvers lead to a greater connection between horse and rider and thus an advantage in the zone of combat.

From Modern Fence Laws to Show Jumping

 The history of show jumping begins around the 1800s in Britain, when private property rights gave rise to the use of fences across hunting lands. Fox hunters, who had once galloped throughout the fields had to teach their horses to jump across the fences in order to pursue the foxes. In effect, the rise of the jumping horse.

Braided Manes and Tails

Today, elegant horse presentation includes braided manes and sometimes tails. In some disciplines across the sport horse presentation is included in the evaluation, while in others its an implicit norm. Two centuries ago, however, manes and tails were braided with the purpose of avoiding getting stuck to branches while fox hunting.

Puissance: Over, Not Under!

Puissance is the high-jump competition in the equestrian sport of show jumping and one of the first disciplines of the sport in the Olympics. In the early 1900s the competition would start with a single pole at an approximate height of 1.50m (5 feet). However, many horses began going under the jump instead of over it, thus more poles and fillers had to be used. The high-jump is usually presented as a “wall” now.


Equestrian remains the only Olympic sport where humans and animals are teammates. Also, it is one of two Olympic sports (sailing) where men and women compete against each other.

By: Alexia Thermiotis

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