So, with the Olympics soon coming to an end, I thought I’d weigh in on a widely talked about subject that always fires people up! Every time “It’s not a sport, they just sit there!” gets uttered in the presence of an equestrian, the room goes cold and lightning strikes! Yes I have, on occasion, said it to Sam, just because the reaction is rather amusing!! I love sports, whether it’s competing, watching or just trying something new, so I guess I should actually see if I can answer this question from a non-horsey person in the horsey world perspective.
Everyone has a different opinion of what makes a sport, and what should be included in the Olympics so, I guess the first place to start is the definition of a sport. “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Personally I’m not convinced darts can be classed as a sport, but should the equestrian events?
Let’s look at the physical exertion bit. Having personally attempted to just hold a bloody big horse still when it seems to find it really funny to drag me around the yard…it definitely involves physical exertion! If a horse decides it wants to go somewhere there’s not a lot you can do about it, keeping it under control and going in a direction of your choosing is hard hence why most horsey people have decent arms on them! After watching Sam wrestle a half-tonne beast for half an hour I can confirm that it’s not just sitting there…it’s pretty gross how sweaty she gets, her helmet smells as bad as my football shin pads!! If you look at any top sportsperson they make it look effortless and I think that’s what people get confused about, it’s not effortless, they’re just good!
So… Physical exertion? – Check!
Now, onto the skill part. Convincing a horse to jump over a massive fences whilst staying on its back, I’d say the skill is pretty obvious for that one, but dressage? Try teaching me to dance never mind a horse! Before getting involved in this crazy world I didn’t have a clue what they did to make a horse do the movements, actually I still don’t, but now that I am finding myself watching a considerable amount of horsey dancing I have begun to wonder how they actually tell the horse to do a particular move without actually doing anything! So, after a full two days of watching the dressage I decided to ask. I decided to ask when they were doing that thing where they change the leading leg every step (if you can’t tell I have no idea what it’s actually called). This was a mistake that made my head hurt for about half an hour! Sam set off on a lengthy explanation that included moving their body weight, leg position and other stuff that just had me confused, not sure I can think enough to that every time I make a step never mind on a horse! Another of the weird movements that confuses me is called the half pass (I have no idea why it’s called a half pass and apparently there is no such thing as a full pass but it’s a good bit of horsey lingo to pick up), this is travelling diagonally sideways while the horse also crosses its legs every step! I was still trying to get my head around what they did just to change the front leg, never mind that! So I decided to sit there quietly!
Skill? – Check!
Competition. Now we’re talking! I am a very competitive person, some would say to a fault, this really annoys Sam…because I always win (apart from golf)! If you went to talk to anyone that competes horses, especially at the top levels they’ll be some of the most competitive people you’re going to meet. They want to win, they train hard to do that. If you’re thinking about the lower levels of riding, there can be a huge number of riders in each class, every one of them wanting to beat the others!
Competition? – Check!
Teamwork. There’s an Olympic team silver that says it’s a team sport! So you say that’s just their individual scores combined? How about the horse and rider? They have to communicate (still don’t really know how!), move in time and work together to be able to move in a certain way. If you compare it to football, you’ve got the captain directing the team and that special player that can turn up on the day and beat the world, or throw a hissy fit and just want to go home!
Teamwork? – Check!
Finally entertainment! London Olympics was such an amazing competition with every sport being in the spotlight for at least a short time and some really capturing the audiences attention. The dressage was one such event. Everyone was talking about it, watched it and cheered when we won. If that’s not entertaining enough for you, go watch some cross country. It’s mental! They charge across a course jumping through holes and over huge fences…that are in ponds and everything! If you need a bit of danger to get your juices flowing this is where it’s at.
Entertainment? – Check!
So as a non-horsey person I can say that it is a sport (even though I will continue to wind Sam up about it!). If you don’t believe me, go get on a horse and tell me how much you sweat!!
Right, back to the Olympics!
Originally posted to The Horse Husband