Equestrian events tend to be the distant cousin at the Olympics. We’re talking “Hong Kong to Beijing” distant. That’s slightly better than 1956, when the equestrian events were held in Stockholm (yes, Sweden) while the other events were in Melbourne (yes, Australia). Quarantine restrictions and other logistical hurdles often get in the way.
Not so in London. Greenwich Park is pretty close to the center of the action. Equestrian fans might know how to comprehend a venue whose distance in miles from the Games’ epicenter is in single digits, not quadruple.
One major distinction between equestrian and other Olympic events: It includes not only two different species (horse, human) but both genders. Women compete against men. Also, the occasional royal family member might be competing.
Over the past two decades, the equestrian community has built up the World Equestrian Games (WEG) into a big event in non-Olympic even years. It includes the world championships in three Olympic disciplines and many more. The Olympic disciplines also have World Cup circuits and updated rankings, all run by FEI.
Individual dressage: Dutch rider Anky van Grunsven is the three-time defending Olympic champion. Can she stay competitive while maintaining a busy coaching and promotional schedule? Her site has much more news about the sport and her other endeavors than her competitions. Fellow Dutch rider Edward Gal — whose horse, Moorlands Totilas (“Toto”), has his own Wikipedia entry — dominated the WEG, followed by Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer (on Mistral Hojiris) and the USA’s Steffen Peters (on Ravel). Yet another Dutch rider, Adelinde Cornelissen, is second to Gal in the world rankings. Bechtolsheimer is next, followed by two separate listings (two different horses) for 2008 silver medalist Isabell Werth.
2008: Anky van Grunsven (Netherlands), Isabell Werth (Germany), Heike Kemmer (Germany)
Projection: Netherlands, Germany, Netherlands
Top Americans: Peters was fourth in 2008. Tina Konyot is ranked 19th.
Team dressage: German and Dutch riders are scattered all through the rankings. Britain upset Germany to take second at the WEG and should have home-soil advantage.
2008: Germany, Netherlands, Denmark
Projection: Netherlands, Germany, Britain
Individual jumping: Gold medalist Eric Lamaze has been consistent — bronze at the WEG, second in the April rankings. Silver medalist Rolf-Göran Bengtsson is third in the rankings, led by France’s Kevin Staut. Belgium’s Philippe Le Jeune won the WEG, followed by Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Al-Sharbatly. Ireland has two riders in the top 10. The World Cup final comes up at the end of the month in Leipzig, Germany.
2008: Eric Lamaze (Canada), Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (Sweden), Beezie Madden (USA)
Projection: Sweden, France, Canada
Top Americans: Mclain Ward is ranked sixth, Madden is 16th, Laura Kraut 19th and Lauren Hough 20th.
Team jumping: The WEG finish: Germany, France, Belgium. Not too surprising, given the current rankings, though the USA is certainly deep enough to be a factor. In 2008, the USA won a jump-off against Canada. Switzerland moved up to bronze after Norway was enmeshed in a doping scandal.
2008: USA, Canada, Switzerland
Projection: Germany, France, USA
Individual eventing: The top three at the WEG: Michael Jung (Germany), William Fox-Pitt (Britain) and Andrew Nicholson (New Zealand). Fox-Pitt leads the rankings ahead of fellow British rider Mary King, followed by Nicholson.
2008: Hinrich Romeike (Germany), Gina Miles (USA), Kristina Cook (Britain)
Projection: Britain, Germany, New Zealand
Top Americans: Plenty in the rankings — Boyd Martin fifth, Phillip Dutton seventh, Karen O’Connor 20th.
Team eventing: Britain has seven of the current top 18 and showed off its depth in winning the WEG. Canada was second, followed by New Zealand. Germany and Australia can call on full four-rider teams from within the top 30 of the rankings.
2008: Germany, Australia, Britain
Projection: Britain, Germany, Australia