Australia will be out for Gold in the three disciplines of Equestrian at the Olympics. Photo: Equestrian Australia

Equestrian vastly differs to the other sports scheduled at Tokyo 2020 and will boast some of Australia's best medal chances at the Olympics with six Golds up for grabs.

Tokyo 2020 has six gold medals up for grabs in equestrian.

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Equestrian has been a regular part of the Olympic Games since 1900. Both men and women compete equally in three different disciplines – dressage, eventing and jumping.

The use of horses in the Ancient Olympic Games can be dated back to 680 BC with chariot-racing. It was historically acclaimed as the most spectacular sport to witness on the ticket.

Equestrian vastly differs from the other sports scheduled at Tokyo 2020. Instead of witnessing the limits of human’s athletic capabilities, riders are rewarded for their incredible temperament, patience and technical nuance in training their horse and forming a partnership so close that they often last a lifetime.

The best equestrian riders in the world are able to command their horses’ every move. It takes years of dedication to form that connection. In no other sport can your performance be dictated by how an animal reacts to its surroundings on the day.

The relationship between rider and horse is an incredibly special bond to witness – they must be at least nine years old to compete and can spend their entire lives with the same rider before competing in their first Games.

Australia has enjoyed success in equestrian over the years, winning 12 medals – including six gold medals – in its history.

The Australian Olympics Committee has already announced six Australians heading to Tokyo for equestrian – three for eventing and three for dressage.


Dressage’s history reaches as far back as Ancient Greece, where complete cooperation for horse and rider was decidedly necessary to survive battle.

A horse’s ability to move quickly from side to side, burst into a gallop or change direction immediately were all considered vital skills.

Today, modern dressage has adapted this principle to encompass freestyle (to music) which has since become an integral part of dressage, making its Olympic debut in Atlanta 1996.

Freestyle is now the pinnacle of dressage execution. When it works, the ‘horse ballet’ is pure magic to watch.

No one in the world showcases the beauty of Dressage as well as reigning Gold medallist, Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) who will be out to repeat in Japan.

The Australian Dressage team has been announced with Mary Hanna, in her sixth Olympics at Tokyo, becoming the first female athlete to represent Australia in six Games. She will also be Australia’s oldest Olympian at 66 years of age. She is yet to medal, but will be hoping to do so in the 60-strong field with her mare Catalanta.

The team heading to Tokyo is also made up of two Olympic debutants. Simone Pearce will be riding Destano, while Kelly Layne will partner Samhitas.


Eventing is the most complete, combined competition discipline which rewards the trust between a horse and its rider. Individuals compete in dressage, cross-country, and jumping.

Their total score is used to determine their placings, and combined to total the team’s placings.

Eventing’s origins are rooted in the military, with horse and rider showcasing their on-duty and off-duty skills. The purpose was to create a competition in which officers and horses could be tested for any challenges that could occur. It also provided a basis to compare training standards between the cavalries of different countries.

Australia will be sending a team comprised of Andrew Hoy, Chris Burton and Shane Rose as its Eventing cohort for Tokyo 2020.

Hoy headlines the list, competing in an unprecedented eighth Olympics. Since his debut in the 1984 Games he has been a mainstay, having only missed the Rio Olympics. At 62 years old he also becomes the oldest male Australian to compete at an Olympics.

He will be partnering with his horse Vassily de Lassos for the first time at an Olympics. They recently finished third at Luhmühlen.

Rio Bronze medallists Chris Burton and Shane Rose make up the team that will be out to topple France from its perch as reigning Olympic Gold medallists in Team Eventing. Horses Quality Purdey and Virgil will be making the trip to Tokyo with them.

Accompanying the selected team to Japan, is Eventing team Reserve combination Stuart Tinney and Leporis.

Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos on cross country at Luhmühlen. Photo: Equestrian Australia


Jumping originated in England when fences became commonplace in the English countryside. For fox hunters, horses who could jump those fences became vital, and so the discipline arose and evolved.

Military men dominated jumping in its early decades. However, with the decline of the use of horses in military service, civilians began to make waves in the discipline.

The decline of the military teams also paved the way for women, who made their first Olympic appearance in jumping at the 1956 Games in Stockholm, and are today as often, if not more, on the top spot of the podium.

Nowadays, Jumping has proved to be an incredible sport to watch, with Italian Federico Caprilli – known as the ‘father of modern riding’ – creating the forward-saddle that allows for Jumping to be a more ethical sport on the world stage.

Nick Skelton (GBR) won Gold in Rio for the individual Jumping, while France has dominated the team event.

Australian Equestrian Team

AthleteEventHorseOlympic games
Chris BurtonEventingQuality Purdey3rd (2012, 2016)
Andrew HoyEventingVassily de Lassos8th (1984, 1988, 1992,
19962000, 2004, 2012)
Shane RoseEventingVirgil3rd (2008, 2016)
Mary HannaDressageCalanta6th (1996, 2000,
2004, 2012, 2016)
Simone PearceDressageDestanoDebut
Kelly LayneDressageSamhitasDebut
Bold = Medalled

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