Horses were introduced to the Olympics in 680 BC in the form of the chariot race event. A previous post detailed the equestrian win of Kyniska of Sparta.

Equestrian Events and the Olympics

Horses were introduced to the Olympics in 680 BC in the form of the chariot race event. A previous post detailed the equestrian win of Kyniska of Sparta. She owned the horse team that won the chariot race in 396 BC and 392 BC, making her the first victorious female Olympian. Modern Olympics saw equestrian events introduced involving military men, but the events were later opened to civilians and women. There are three categories of equestrian events at the modern Olympics.

Dressage is considered to be the artistic discipline and showcases highly trained horses. These skills date back to ancient Greece, when high degrees of training were required for success in battle, allowing horses to move side-to-side, change direction quickly and commit other acts on command. Dressage was revitalized during the Renaissance. It appeared at the 1900 Paris Games and has been a part of each Summer Olympics since the 1912 Stockholm Games. Competition was limited to male officers until 1948. Women and civilian men have been allowed to compete since the 1952 Helsinki Games. In 1996 the freestyle event (set to music) was introduced and has proved very popular. Jumping developed out of necessity. After fences were erected in fields in the English countryside, foxhunters needed horses capable of leaping over the rails. Eventing combines elements of dressage, cross country and jumping. It served as the basis for cavalry military training in many countries. Eventing is considered the most demanding of the equestrian disciplines. Women first competed in eventing in 1964 at the Tokyo Games.

The 2012 London Games feature individual mixed and team mixed events in each of the three disciplines, for a total of six gold medal opportunities. Equestrian events are scheduled for July 31, and August 6-9.

Equestrian Events at Michigan State

The MSU Equestrian Team was created in 1982. It competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association. MSU is a part of IHSA Zone 6, Region 3, and competes against Grand Valley State University, Hillsdale College, Ohio Wesleyan University, Otterbein College, Saginaw Valley State University, The University of Findlay, The University of Michigan, and Western Michigan University. The team competes with a stock team and a hunt team, each having about twenty members. The stock team is coached by Leesa Massman of Massman Stables, and they won their regional championships this year. The hunt team is coached by Laura Steenrod of the Fieldstone Equestrian Center.

Beyond competitive equestrian sports, Michigan State has many equine (horse) related programs. The Adult Equine Extension programs run by the Department of Animal Science help educate the public on sustainable management practices that promote the welfare of horses. My Horse University is a web-based program run by MSU to serve as an educational tool and resource for horse owners. The Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center is an equine sports and lameness center within the College of Veterinary Medicine. Research is done on horse physiology and treatment at this facility.

Here are some Beneath the Pines photos of horses on campus. 

Photo Credits: Vintage photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. All other photos courtesy of MSU Communications & Brand Standards.

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