Just FYI, even if we miss the live online broadcasts of the equestrian events, we can still catch up with what we’ve missed. The equestrian page at NBC Olympics offers both highlights and entire events for playback.
So, if we have time to only watch highlights, we have that option. And, if we can spare an hour or two (sometimes three), we can watch the whole event. And we can pause playback for trips to the home concession stand. 🙂
Again, we need relatively new high-speed computers and Internet service, like broadband, to enjoy the full effect.
When you finally know what to look for, watching dressage really is more exciting than watching paint dry.
After all, the casual viewer easily figures out jumping and cross country. In those faster-paced sports, the horse and rider must run an obstacle course faster than anyone else and not touch, let alone knock down, any of the jumps.
But the much quieter sport of dressage looks harder to figure out. At first glance, all we see is a horse and rider team moving across or down an arena. The two don’t seem to be doing anything exciting. And the rider seems to be sitting still, not doing much of anything.
So, how does the horse know what to do? And how do we tell who’s winning?
Making the performance look effortless is the point of dressage. Bottom line? The goal is perfect form between horse and rider.
Dressage is judged subjectively, like gymnastics or figure skating. The horse must show flexibility while moving through its gaits with grace and rhythm. The horse must also demonstrate confidence and trust in the rider through its response to cues that should be imperceptible to observers.
Probably the most accessible dressage event for newbies is the musical freestyle, in which the horse and rider can appear to be dancing to the music.
Most of the work happens before the show in the years of training and conditioning. All of the movements are natural to the horse and done willingly upon request from and under the control of the rider. The horse must feel confident and protected by the rider, whereas the rider needs to anticipate the horse’s reactions to what’s liable to be a new environment for the horse.
The result is a horse that prances, skips, glides and travels sideways, all prompted by the silent cues from the rider.
In some ways, the dance you see in the arena isn’t the only dance that’s there. A lot of dressage involves the dance between minds.
Just in case you haven’t heard, for the first time ever, we will have the opportunity to watch the Olympic equestrian events streamed live online, in addition to other TV coverage from NBC. Here’s the complete schedule.
Congratulations! You’re in on the ground floor, so to speak.
Welcome to The Horsey Set.Net. (Don’t forget the dot net. Very Important.) We’re going to have a great time here as we celebrate horses and their impact upon our culture. Check out the About page, too. So far, this post and that are all there is. For now. 🙂
I photographed the horse above at the Kentucky Horse Park. I think he thought I had treats.
He and his pals back there are Friesians, an ancient Dutch breed that’s heavy enough to carry knights in armor but graceful enough for modern dressage. We see Friesians in many movies from Ladyhawke to 300. They’re recognizable by their size, usually solid black color and the long feathered hair above their hooves.
Famous owners of Friesians are Martha Stewart and the family of Aerosmith’s Joe Perry.