A Wee Bit of Sports History


The famous Army bred, 15.3 hh eventing mare Jenny Camp. One of only three horses to win individual medals at consecutive Olympics
The famous Army bred, 15.3 hh eventing mare Jenny Camp. One of only three horses to win individual medals at consecutive Olympics

So while I slowly await the end of my class and the day I will be reunited with my horses I have a chance to sit back and reflect on where our individual sports have come from and how they have changed throughout time. So I thought I’d share with you some fun information I have learned (just a tad bit mind you)!

Dressage: Literally means training  in French. It was started in its earliest known documented form in Ancient Greece which we know from books written by the ancient Greek Xenophon (some of his books are still available today) and presumably long before him. It was originally used to teach and demonstrate a horses ability to preform maneuvers that could potentially save the rider in battle. Each movement was meant to maneuver the rider to better attack the enemy or evade the enemies weapons. It appears to have been highly effective through the many ages and empires until the Medieval times when armored knights and armored horses took center stage. Dressage made its comeback in the Renaissance and evolved from the battle field to the sports arena with the appearance of the mechanized militaries around the world.

Show Jumping: Even though the beginnings of show jumping are not known it has been a world sport since the 1900’s. Show jumping has become one of the most widely known and watched equestrian sports a crossed every continent. (My guess to its origins: someone, somewhere said “Hey my horse can jump higher and more jumps, faster then yours!)

Eventing: Originally designed by the cavalry to test their mounts.  Dressage was used to test their maneuverability and responsiveness. Cross country tested their endurance and courage and show jumping tested their agility and precision! It eventually evolved from a test into competition. If you go back and look at the videos of the earliest olympics you will see military men competing. (Proof in the image above!) It was originally for the military only on military mounts. As the cavalry slowly faded out of use, it was opened, gradually, to the everyday man and eventually to women. Eventing used to be exclusively run on the classic format (Roads and tracks, steeple chase and cross country) but eventually cut down the course to just cross country (a still hotly debated topic) into the style we know of today. In the U.S. some courses still do a “Classic” format so it has not completely left the scene yet!(which I would LOVE to do….just saying)

Reining/Roping/Cutting: These sports hold their roots in the good old American west! Horses had to be quick and agile while also being able to work long days as they herded cattle crossed the US. As the age of the cowboy came to a close a crossed much of the United States these sports, along with rodeo’s, have kept the western life thriving and has even taken off around the world!

I hope you have found something interesting here today. I think it’s great to research where our sports have come from. When you know why and how something was originally used, it seems to make it easier to understand(at least for me). There are quite a few references about each sport and I have listed several of the main websites if your interested in their history as well as their modern applications. I wish I could list all the wonderful books I have read (a project for another day!) But just know that there are many, spanning back hundreds if not thousands of years (Think Xenophon!)

If you have any questions or would like some reading recommendation please feel free to shoot me a message or post below! 😀


Some links if you’re interested:







Also if you would like to read the works of Xenophon you can get a kindle version of it for free on amazon HERE.  Its not the best version but its free so who can complain? If you want a more updated and recently translated version check out THIS BOOK. Its not free unless you have kindle unlimited.

(The links are a bit hard to see but if you scroll over the words you’ll see the link. I’m still working this little gremlin out!)


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