Olympic Equestrian Trivia

Fun facts about the history of Olympic equestrian competitions.

Question: What rider has won the most Olympic medals?

Answer: German dressage rider Reiner Klimke (1936-1999) won eight medals, six gold (a record in itself) and two bronze. In 1984 he won an individual gold in Los Angeles and team gold in 1964, 1968, 1976, 1984 and 1988. Klimke rode Ahlerich on three of those occasions, including the individual gold medal-winning performance.

Q: Who was the first woman to participate in an Olympic three-day event and who was the first woman to win an Olympic team gold medal in that sport?

A: Lana DuPont broke new ground in 1964 when she took part in the Tokyo Games with Mr. Wister, finishing thirty-third. As a member of the U.S. silver medal team, she demonstrated that women were not too delicate to make the grade in eventing, once the province of military men. Until that year, women had been prohibited from participating in the Olympic three-day event. DuPont, under her married name of Wright, did go on to get a gold medal eventually, but not at the Olympics. She was one the U.S. pairs driving team that won the World Championship in Austria in 1991.

Q: Who was the first woman to win an Olympic individual gold medal in an equestrian discipline?

A: Liselott Linsenhoff of Germany on Piaff made history by taking the dressage title in Munich in 1972. After Lisenhoff’s dramatic breakthrough, women have continued to dominate dressage, with the exception of 1984, when Germany’s Reiner Klimke was the victor on Ahlerich. Christine Stuckelberger of Switzerland was victorious with Granat in 1976 and again in the alternate Olympics in 1980, while Elizabeth Theurer on Mon Cherie was the gold medalist at the 1980 Olympics. Germany’s Nicole Uphoff on Rembrandt led the first all-female medal sweep in 1988 and the retained her title on the same horse in 1992. Germany’s Isabell Werth on Gigolo then won the gold in 1996. The Netherlands’s Anky van Grunsven became the gold medalist on Bonfire in 2000 and won again on Salinero in 2004.

Q: Who was the first United States equestrian to win an individual Olympic gold medal?

A: William Steinkraus, who started riding for the United States Equestrian Team in its second year, rode on five Olympic teams before his retirement in 1972. In the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City, Steinkraus and the Princess de la Tour d’Auvergne’s great horse Snowbound won the individual gold medal.

In 1972, the same year Germany’s Liselott Linsenhoff won her individual gold in dressage, two-thirds of Britain’s gold medal eventing team members were women. Mary Gordon-Watson on Cornishman IV and Bridget Parker on Cornish Gold teamed with individual gold medalist Richard Meade on Laurieston for the title. Gordon-Watson was just out of the individual medals, finishing fourth.

Q: In what Olympic Equestrian discipline has the U.S. won the most gold medals?

A: Three-day eventing. Army teams earned the top prize in 1932 and 1948. The U.S. Equestrian Team, which took over the responsibilities of fielding squads starting with the 1952 Olympics, won in 1976 and 1984. The first U.S. individual gold medal in this discipline went to Tad Coffin on Bally Cor in 1976. This act was not repeated until the 2000 Games, when David O’Conner on Custom Made won the gold medal.

Q: What is the U.S. dressage team’s best performance?

A: A team silver. The U.S. military team won a team bronze in 1932 and a team silver in 1948. The only individual medal was won by Hiram Tuttle, a bronze in 1933 as a member of the military cavalry team.

Q: What athlete holds the U.S. record for selection to the most Olympic teams?

A: Three-day eventer J. Michael Plumb of Southern Pines, North Carolina, competed in the 1960 Rome Olympics with Markham, the 1964 Tokyo Games with Bold Minstrel, the 1968 Mexico City Games with Plain Sailing, the 1972 Munich Games with Free and Easy, the 1976 Montreal Games with Better and Better, the 1980 alternate Fontainebleau Games with Laurenson, the 1984 Los Angeles Games with Blue Stone and the 1992 Barcelona Games with Adonis. Overall he won six Olympic medals: team silver in 1964, team silver in both 1968 and 1972, team gold and individual silver in 1976 and a team gold in 1984. Plumb recently became the first equestrian athlete to be inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

Q: What rider was the first North American to win an individual gold medal in Olympic show jumping?

A: The flamboyant General Humberto Mariles Cortes of Mexico, a legend who electrified crowds wherever he went. He took the title in London on Arete in 1948, in the first post-World War II Games, when Mexico also earned the team gold. With eight faults in hand in the individual competition, Mariles was the final rider to try his luck in the individual medal competition. His only faults came at the water and for exceeding the time allowed, but he still had 1 3/4-fault edge when he finished. He was sent to prison twice, once for shooting a man and once for drug smuggling. Mariles died in jail in 1972.

Q: Who was the only rider to appear on both the 1984 U.S. gold medal Olympic team and the 1986 gold medal World Championship team during the heyday of American show jumping?

A: Conrad Homfeld, with the great Trakehner, Abdullah. Homfeld also won the individual team silver in both competitions. The two-time World Cup champion is retired from riding and concentrated on course designing and training.

Q: Germany has a tradition of dominating the Olympic team dressage competition. Indeed, it has won 11 team gold medals since the event began in 1928. What country has the second-best record?

A: It’s actually a tie among Sweden, France and the former Soviet Union, each of which has won twice. Sweden was victorious in 1952 and 1956, while the former Soviets were tops in 1972 and 1980, when most of the Free World boycotted the Moscow Games. Except for a technicality, however, Sweden would hold the record behind Germany. The Swedes won in 1948, but when it was discovered that ones of their riders was only a non-commissioned officer (against the rules at the time), they were disqualified. France, who first took the prize in 1932, also won the 1948 title as a result on Sweden’s miscue.

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