We all know about watching equestrian sports in the Olympics. But, did you know there was another huge event that happens every four years (two years after each summer Olympics)? The World Equestrian Games are to the equestrian world what the X-Games are to winter boarding sports or what Wimbledon, The US Open, Australian Open or French Open are to tennis. WEG not only highlights the same sports featured in the Olympics: Dressage, Eventing and Show Jumping, but it also adds five more amazing events! The World Equestrian Games started in 1990 and have been held in countries all over Europe and 2018 will be the second time the event has been held in the US! Below is a brief description of each of the eight disciplines that compete and the dates you can tune in to watching as riders at the top of their sports ride in Tryon, NC. Watch at home here!
9.12 & 9.13
Endurance is a long distance race taking place over a 100 mile track! I can't imagine being in the saddle for that long. With checkpoints along the way horse and rider are required to take rest periods for everyone's welfare. This isn't a flat track race either. Most courses require going up and down hills, crossing over water and uneven terrain. You are most likely to see Arabian or Arab crosses participating in this event because of their high energy and stamina.
9.12, 9.13 & 9.15
Reining evolved from the movements a horse might need to do when working on the ranch or dealing with cattle. Sliding stops, spins and handiness are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this sport. This is the only western sport represented so far in the World Equestrian Games. The breed most common to this sport is the Quarter Horse, but many other breeds are successful reiners. When watching this event I can't help but compare it to dressage, the precision and subtle movements between horse and rider make this a thrilling thing to watch!
9.12, 9.13, 9.14 & 9.16
This is the ballet of horse riding if you ask me. Beautiful dances preformed by horse and rider pairs that can seem like they are just floating. One of the three sports included in the Olympics, Dressage is one of the more commonly recognizable horse sports. Many different warmblood breeds compete in this discipline because they have been bred for power and impulsion. All things needed to preform some of those moves that look so effortless and graceful.
9.13, 9.14, 9.15 & 9.16
Another one of the Olympic sports, Eventing takes place over three days and includes Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping. These horse and riders are the "jack of all trades" if you will. They need to have the balance and precision required of dressage. The stamina and power for a trying cross country course where they jump ditches and logs, tables and banks, in and out of water elements. And the accuracy and speed for a show jumping course. Thoroughbreds, many OTTB's, are popular for this sport because they embody many of those athletic qualities. Warmbloods are also popular.
9.18, 9.19, 9.20, 9.21 & 9.22
I love that Para-Dressage gets to play on the same stage here at WEG! Para-Dressage is an event in the Para Olympics for the differently abled riders, but there is just something so special about this being held at the exact same time as the other events. Riders are grouped in to different categories based on their abilities and the tests they are asked to preform are of an appropriate level. I dare you to watch this and not get a little misty eyed thinking about the hard work and struggle these riders have overcome to get to this point!
9.18, 9.19, 9.20 & 9.22
Let's just say this is gymnastics on horseback! There are some days when I feel like I can barely stay on, and I'm sitting there like everyone else. And these athletes jump on and off and all around trotting or cantering horses on a lunge line. If that wasn't amazing enough then multiple people get up there and form intricate lifts. I'm just in awe watching this every time! Heavier horses are typically used for this sport because they have wide sturdy backs allowing for the riders to enough room for their tricks. However, a rhythmical, steady gait is far more important.
9.19, 9.20, 9.21 & 9.23
This is the third and final event found in the Olympics. Show Jumping is an against the clock competition where the person with the fastest time who jumps around without knocking anything over, or faults, wins. The jumps are up to 1.60m in height (thats around 5'3"!) and can be crazy wide! This is the sport that has my heart, and I hope to compete one day at this level. Warmbloods are often found in this sport because power and speed are very important to success.
9.21, 9.22 & 9.23
This event has four horses hitched up pulling a small cart. Four in hand as it is called is where one person is responsible for navigating all four horses through a course. Much like eventing's three phases, driving takes place with a dressage phase, a marathon phase and a cone phase. Other people are also found on the cart helping to counter weigh the rig so it doesn't go toppling over through the crazy courses. I can't say I've watched this sport much so I am excited to watch!