Equestrian Sports Have a Confirmed Spot in the 2024 Olympics

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Equestrian Show Jumping at the Beijing Olympics
Olympic Gate by Craig Maccubbin on flickr/CC BY 2.0

Equestrian sports have been part of every summer Olympic games since 1912, but their presence at future games isn’t always a guarantee. That’s why the report that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had approved the three Olympic disciplines of show jumping, dressage, and three-day eventing for the 2024 games was welcome news when it came out last week.

“The IOC’s confirmation of equestrian on the Olympic program for the 2024 Games and approval of the new formats for Tokyo 2020 is a direct acknowledgment of our willingness to adapt and modernize our sport, so all the work to drive change and increase universality has been worthwhile,” said Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) President Ingmar De Vos.

The changes for 2020 that De Vos was referring to were proposed by the FEI to fit in with one of the IOC’s stated goal of increasing the number of countries competing in the sport at the Olympic level. In order to reach this goal, all three disciplines will have just three horse-and-rider pairs for team competition and there will no longer be a drop score, though nations will be able to send a reserve pair to fill in in case a team member has to withdraw due to illness or injury. By requiring fewer horses and riders, countries with smaller equestrian communities will have an easier time recruiting the necessary number of qualified athletes. Additionally, by having fewer athletes per country, the FEI can make space for more teams without going over the quota of 200 total athletes.

Other changes include:

  • Running the individual competition before the team competition in show jumping;
  • Individual dressage competitors will qualify for the Grand Prix Freestyle through a heat system, where the top two riders from each of six heats, plus the next six best overall scores, will move on, rather than the top 18 scores overall;
  • The dressage Grand Prix Special will be conducted to music;
  • The dressage phase of eventing will take place in a single day instead of two;
  • The level of eventing will be defined as “Olympic level”: 4* dressage and stadium jumping and 3* cross-country;
  • For team classification, any horse-and-rider pair that does not complete one phase of eventing may still proceed to the next phase, with penalties incurred, so long as the horse passes veterinary inspection.

Tap here to view all of the proposed changes for equestrian and para-equestrian.

Equestrian Eventing at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics
Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Olympics and is one of two candidate cities for the 2024 games. Photo: J. Michael Plumb from the United States aboard Bluestone. by Virginia Hill on flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

The equestrian changes are part of larger changes made by the IOC in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 games, including adding several new events that appeal to to younger, more urban athletes and audiences and that help the Olympics get closer to gender equity. One of the ways the IOC is doing this is by adding more mixed events where men and women compete together on teams, something equestrian sports have done for decades. Tap here to read more about the new sports and events being added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The host city for the 2024 Olympics has not yet been named. Los Angeles and Paris are the two candidates; whichever one isn’t awarded the 2024 games will be the host of the 2028 Olympics.


Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky. www.lesliepotterphoto.com

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