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Equestrian Events at the 2012 London Summer Olympics

The Equestrian (fancy name for horses) competition at the London 2012 Summer Olympics consists of three disciplines: dressage, eventing, and jumping. Each of these discipline provides an opportunity for team and individual medals. Eventing competitions will take place July 28 through 31; dressage competitions will take place August 2 through 9; and jumping competitions will take place august 4 through 8. All events will be held at Greenwich Park.

About 200 Olympians will vie for the medals, and unlike many of the other sports, men and women will compete together and against one another.

Equestrian eventing during the Olympic games

Although dressage is its own category of competition, it is included as part of what's called the eventing competition and actually takes about half of the four days allotted to the competition. During the dressage portion, the rider and horse combinations perform for a panel of judges, who award them points that are converted to penalty points and carried forward to the cross-country competition.

The cross-country competition is a long course containing up to 45 jumps. Penalty points are awarded for time penalties and jumping errors. These points are added to the dressage penalty points to yield a total score for each horse and rider combination.

The last portion of the eventing competition is jumping.

In the United Kingdom, the Brits refer to this portion of the competition as showjumping.

Two jumping tests make up this portion of the eventing competition. The first test determines the team place medals. Penalty points are awarded for errors in jumping and time violations, which are added to the competitors' previous totals. Although the teams might include as many as five rider and horse combinations, only the best three cumulative scores count toward the team's score.

The best 25 rider and horse combinations go through to the second jumping test to determine individual medal winners.

If there are multiple rider/horse combinations tied for 25th place, they all go through to the second jumping test and compete for individual medals.

Individual medals are awarded based on the cumulative scores of the dressage, cross-country, and both jumping competitions.

Dressage equestrian events at the Summer Olympics

Dressage events, much as the name implies, are all about how the horse and rider look and move together. They perform a dressage test before a panel of seven judges. This test involves a series of various movements. The judges award scores for the overall routines as well as for individual movements.

The team event consists of three horse and rider combinations, including the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special rounds. The individual event uses the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special as qualifiers for a freestyle competition (Grand Prix Freestyle).

Grand Prix is a fancy name for the first phase of the competition. The Grand Prix Special is the second phase of the competition.

The best seven teams and the best 11 individual athletes, who are not qualified as team members, after the Grand Prix go on to the Grand Prix Special.

If there are multiple rider/horse combinations tied for 11th place or multiple teams tied for 7th place, they all go through to the next phase of the competition.

Team medals are awarded based on the combined scores during the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special. The best 18 rider and horse combinations, based solely on performance during the Grand Prix Special, go on to the freestyle competition. Performance in the freestyle event determines individual medals.

Equestrian jumping competition during the Summer Olympics

The most exciting of the equestrian events, the jumping competition is all about timing and speed as the athletes take their horses (sometimes referred to as mounts in competition) through an obstacle course containing everything from fake stone walls to water obstacles, to jumps with multiple rails.

Any jump that isn't cleared correctly and completely is awarded a penalty. The fastest rider and horse with the fewest penalties receives the highest score.

The jumping competition includes five rounds. The first round is strictly an individual competition, an attempt to reduce the number of competitors. The best 60 rider/horse combinations go on to the second round.

The second round is actually the first team competition, but also serves as another individual competition qualifying round. This time, the scores from both rounds are combined, and the best 45 individuals go on to compete. Based only on scores from this round, the best eight teams also go on to round three.

The third round determines the team medals. Scores from both team rounds are combined. The third round also serves to narrow the field of individual competitors down to the best 35, based on the combined scores. Only three riders from each country can progress as individual competitors.

In the fourth round, individual scores are not cumulative. Based on scores in this round only, the top 20 competitors go on to the final round.

The fifth round scores are combines with the fourth round scores to determine the individual medal winners.

If athletes are tied for medals after the final round, they participate in a jump-off to break the tie.

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