Earlier this week, The New York Times News Service issued a piece published by The Globe and Mail about how equestrian events in London are taking center stage rather than a back stage to other Olympic activities. With Wildwood being "horse country" in St. Louis County, many residents are taking a keen interest in better understanding what's occurring at the worldwide games during a year where equine lovers are observing the 100th anniversary of being involved.
Equestrianism made its Summer Olympics debut at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. It disappeared until 1912, but has appeared at every Summer Olympic Games since, according to Olympics sources.
Did you know equestrian events are the only Olympic activities that involve animals? Packed-in horse lovers have been rewarded with surprise elements from horses' unpredictability this week, too.
It also appears to be the only Olympics event that pits males against females.
Kate Jones, the new director and certified instructor of the Riding Academy at Ridgefield Arena in Wildwood, said they were called upon by KSDK-TV Channel 5 to explain the various styles of riding competitions viewers will see this week at the Olympics. A segment that includes Channel 5's broadcasters Jennifer Blome and Sara Daley riding at Ridgefield Arena was scheduled to air Thursday.
Jones said they mostly focused on explaining stadium jumping and dressage for the segment. She said an activity called reining used to be a part of the Olympics, but not enough riders qualified for it this year.
"Horses are shipped on planes and quarantined for weeks prior to the Olympics," Jones said.
She said the youngest U.S. Olympic show jumper is competing this year: 18-year-old Reed Kessler from Armonk, NY.
But Jones is quick to point out the longevity of equestrian Olympic events. "The oldest Olympic rider competed at 70 years old in 1972. It's a great sport because everyone can ride."
"Riders have to have a great and long relationship with their horses. You learn a lot about your character and gut standpoint from riding," she said.
Jones admits it was refreshing to know the top riders of the world face the same uncertainties with their horses as they do right here in Wildwood. "Horses are horses, and sometimes they say 'no' just like we do."
Of special interest at the Olympics this year has been Zara Phillips, Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter, who rides a horse named High Kingdom. From television coverage, Princes William and Harry; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; and Prince Andrew’s daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie were in attendance as Phillips competed.