Horses have a long history of being used in sports. From pulling Roman chariots to running the Preakness, horses’ innate agility and their ability to carry a human rider have made them exceptionally good for a wide variety of games. Here is an overview of the many ways that horses are incorporated into sports around the world.
Racing is perhaps the most ancient form of using horses for sport. Today, races with the exceptionally fast thoroughbred breed are the most popular worldwide. Quarter horses are raced over short distances, such as the quarter mile.
Besides thoroughbreds, light horse breeds like Arabian horses, Appaloosas, and the American Paint are also used in races. In the United Kingdom, steeplechasing, racing horses over a number of tall obstacles, is another popular type of racing.
Besides racing, horses have been used in the sport of rodeo since it arose as an event among Southwestern cattle hands. Several events usually comprise a rodeo, including calf-roping, bare-back riding, and barrel racing. In other events, riders attempt to stay on “bucking broncs,” horses who are bred for bucking or who have been ruined from riding.
Horse competitions have been an important part of the Olympic summer games since 1900. There are a few types of equestrian competitions in the Olympics, including dressage, eventing, and jumping:
- In dressage, horses are judged on their ability to respond naturally and effortlessly to a rider’s commands, a discipline which requires a large amount of training and obedience.
- In eventing, a horse’s all-around ability is tested through a course of obstacles, such as ditches, walls, or logs.
- In jumping, horses are required to jump over a series of fences, and are judged on their ability to jump without refusing or knocking down the obstacle.
Many children and adults who train with horses choose to participate in horse shows, gatherings of large groups of riders who compete in a variety of events. Around the world, the standards and events used may vary.
A rider’s posture and style may be judged, as well as a horse’s manners and constitution. Other events judge horses on their ability to be led by a harness and to jump over obstacles while carrying a rider.
This team sport has a long history, dating as far back as 5th century BC. Today, polo is a popular sport in many countries, each of which uses a variation of the following rules: two teams of players attempt to score goals against their opposing team, by hitting a small wood or plastic ball with a long mallet, all while mounted upon a horse.