Galina Ulanova, People's Artist of the USSR once visited Tersky stud where she viewed a dressage performance of Arabian thoroughbred horses. And she wrote in the honorary visitors' book such words of admiration: "A balerina can envy those fluttering, easy, graceful movements of the horse".
Equestrian sports in all its variety is a beautiful show. A real art which could be mastered only through a prolonged training of a rider and a horse. Both ought to understand each other well, to act in full accord and synchronously. And only as such their performance is a delight to look at and is warmly welcomed by spectators.
Equestrian sports appeared in the far away ancient times. The man has always admired the swift racing of horses, their graceful movements. In ancient Greece long before our era the equestrian sports was made a part of the Olympic Games.
And in spacious Russia of the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries the wide popularity was enjoyed by the horse endurance runs and the horse competitions held during festive occasions.
The modern Olympic (classic) varieties of the equestrian sports as well as the steeplechase began gaining popularity in Russia since the second half of the XIXth century. In the seventies of the last century wide popularity was enjoyed by the steeplechase at a distance of four verstas (4.27 km) with clearing the complex vertical and width obstacles held in Krasnoye Selo in St. Petersbourg surroundings. But such equestrian sports was a privilage only for a narrow circle of participants.
At the International steeplechase events in London the Russian teams three times at a go, in 1912, 1913 and 1914 won the honorary challenge cup and even got it in their possession. At the International steeplechase competitions held in spring of 1914 in Vienna the Russian horseman was twice proclaimed a winner.
Equestrian sports in the USSR acquired a mass nature only after the Great October Socialist Revolution and nowadays dozens of thousands of youth are mastering this kind of sport in the Soviet riding schools and clubs.
Equestrian sports was initiated in the Soviet Union by Clement E. Voroshilov and Semyon M. Budyonny. At its dawn this sport became widely popular among soldiers of the Red Mounted Army which later trained many outstanding riding masters.
The equestrian sports in the Soviet Union has left behind a complicated but glorious path, commencing with long endurance tests at 100 km. and over. In 1925 for the first time the Central Moscow hippodrome saw the All-Red Army competitions which included the wide variety of contests. Their program included fancy riding, handling the cold steel, endurance run at a distance of 50 km, clearance of medium and upper class obstacles.
Two years later, in 1927 the second All-Union competitions took place. They were more representative with the number of participating riders reaching 350 and the competition program was made considerably wider. Some record performances were then registered: 186 cm. for high jump, 6 m. 17.5 cm. for long jump, 4 h. 17 min. for 100 km. endurance test. Some of these records were later improved: high jump was achieved with 225 cm, long jump - with 8 m. 20 cm. Just to remind - the world record high jump equals 2 m. 47 cm. and that of a long jump - 8 m. 40 cm.
The All-Army competitions of 1931, 1935, 1938 were attended already by participating sportsmen of "Osoaviakhim" and from the first voluntary sports societies "Spartacus", "Stroitel" and "Pitschevik". The progress in the equestrian sports gained in the thirties was possible largely due to the activities of "Osoaviakhim" society as well as due to a large scale movement of the Soviet youth for mastering the riding skill and winning the right to be awarded with the honorary badge of "Voroshilov Rider".
Horse contests in those years were of an army-applied nature. Over 200 "Osoaviakhim" clubs were then functioning in the country. In 1936 this society arranged the first All-Union equestrian competitions for the civilians.
When the Great Patriotic broke out many sportsmen belonging to "Osoaviakhim" society and Voroshilov riders went to the front.
After the war a lot has been done for reviving the equestrian sports. Since 1946 personal and team equestrian competitions for the USSR championship have been revived and as since 1956 these competitions have been included in the Tournament of Nations of the USSR. Because of the abolishlement of the mounted army the importance of an army-applied nature of equestrian competitions has gone. It was replaced with widely popular Olympic classic varieties of the equestrian sports which found the way into championships, tournaments and other equestrian competitions.
Olympic games include now dressage, riding competitions and the three day event.
Dressage requires a horse to be highly trained and obedient it is not accidental that dressage is alternatively called a riding school. These competitions are held by various programs depending on a level of difficulty and in accordance with a training degree of a rider and a horse. At important events at home and abroad riders compete for Small, Medium Prizes and the Grand Prix according to the programs approved by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).
Dressage competitions include also complex exercises envisaged by the FEI rules as well as certain paces and movements of a horse - step, trot, gallop, stand etc.
As for the step it could be medium, added, short and free. With a medium step back traces of a horse's back legs fall on traces of its front legs. When moving with added step traces of the back extremities of a horse overlap traces of the front ones with the movement speed remaining unchanged. With the added step the movement remains energetic grasping the wide space, while with the short step the space grasped becomes smaller, traces of the back hooves do not reach traces of the front ones, but the horse movement speed remains unchanged. With the free step a horse moves energetically.
The trot and gallop like the step are classified as medium, added and short. With the horse trotting a rider can easily and in time with the horse movement rise in the saddle or remain tightly sat in it. When riding at any pace a horse must stop without any resistance.
The stand should be easy with a horse body supported equally by all four legs. Reining in of a horse is gained through its straight move aback. Passage (side moves) consists of front and side movements performed simultaneously with two steps with a horse turning its head to the same side and slightly bending its length while its movement remains parallel to a manege side.
Dressage includes also a number of other riding complex elements such as alternating the legs at a gallop, i.e. galloping started either with the right front leg or with the left one, a semi-pirouette or a full pirouette at a step or a gallop. With the latter elements a horse turns either 180° or 360° beating the time and easily turning around in circles while remaining on the spot. Another element is a vault, when a horse either at a gallop or a trot performs a full circle of 6-8 m. in diameter. Passage and piaffer also belong to dressage high class elements, the former being a rythmically sustained trot with the maintained time-beat, when a horse grasps less space afront but raises its legs higher, the latter could be paraphrased as a passage on a spot.
The overcoming of obstacles (concours-hippique) demands from a rider such qualities as courage, self-control, resource-fulness, while a horse should be possessed of exceptionally high jumping abilities to surmount the obstacles of 1.6-2.0 m. high which are typical of the modern concours-hippique requirements. Such competitions are held by classes for each of them a certain number of jumps and parameters of obstacles being separately defined.
The programs of important international events and the USSR championships include team two-round contests. In the Soviet Union the USSR Cup is contested, in international equestrian sporting events - the Cup of Nations and at the Olympic Games - the Olympic Grand Prix. Each competing participant has to cover twice the track complicated with 13-14 obstacles up to 160 cm. high and 250 cm. wide and whith a ditch up to 5 m. wide. The winner is chosen among those with a minimum sum of penalty points. Four penalty points are given for destroying the obstacle, eight - for a rider falling down, three - for a horse refusing to jump at the first attempt and six - for the same at the second attempt. If a horse fails to jump at the third attempt a rider falls out of the competitions.
There are other varieties of the concours-hippique, testing the horse for the power of its jump. These competitions are held in several rounds with the height of obstacles being risen with each round. The sportsmen who gained the best results continue participating in such a contest.
The concours-hippique for speed results is also known while that rider is announced a winner who shows the best time and better speed results in covering the track.
The rules of the so-called concours "at a free choice" allow a rider to make his own choice of obstacles to overcome, for each of which, if surmounted successfully, he is given the winning points. And more complicated is an obstacle more points are awarded. For destroying the obstacle no penalty points are alloted, neither is a rider penalized for the first two failings of a horse to jump. The third failure, however, results in disqualification of a competing rider.
The three day event represents the most difficult type of equestrian sports. It includes three kinds of competitions: dressage (manege riding), field tests and concours. All competitions are performed with the same horse during three days.
The first day program embraces dressage or manege riding including diverse excercises: voltes, halts, pace alternations. The results of all excercises are scored by the ten point system.
Field tests are held on the second day when both - a rider and a horse have to display their endurance. Each rider has to cover four stretches of the total track distance. The first and the third track stretches include a road ride at a total distance of 10-20 km. at the speed of 240 m/min. The second stretch is the steeplechase at 1800-4200 m. with three obstacles erected at every 1000 m. 140 m. high and up to 200 cm. wide. For this high speed stretch each distance is fixed with a certain time limit (for example, 3 min. for 1800 m. distance). The fourth strech is a cross-country track at 4500-8100 m. distance with four obstacles erected at every 1000 m. being of about the same type as those provided for the steeplechase. Here the control time is also fixed, for example, 10 min. for 4500 m. distance.
|XVII-th 1960||Rome||A gold medal won by S. Filatov|
|XVIII-th 1964||Tokio||A bronze medal in team scoring (A. Filatov, I. Kalita, I. Kizimov)|
|XIX-th 1968||Mexico||A silver medal in team scoring (I. Kizimov, I. Kalita, E. Petushkova) A gold medal won by I. Kizimov|
|XX-th 1972||Munich||A gold medal in team scoring (E. Petushkova, I. Kizimov, I. Kalita) A silver medal won by E. Petushkova|
|XXI-st 1976||Montreal||The 4th placing in team scoring|
|XXII-d 1980||Moscow||A gold medal in team scoring (Yu. Kovshov, V. Ugryumov, V. Misevich) A silver medal won by Yu. Kovshov A bronze medal won by V. Ugryumov|
The third day of the three day event is devoted to the concours-hippique at the distance of 750-900 m. complicated with 12 obstacles 120 m. high and up to 180 cm. wide. These concours arrangements are comparatively less demanding but each failure here is penalized harsher, e.g. for destroying the obstacle 10 penalty points are given, the first jib is punished with 10 and the second - with 20 penalty points. A rider falling down is punished with 30 penalty points.
The Soviet equestrian sportsmen have been participating in the Olympic Games since the XVth ones held in Helsinki in 1952. The Soviet combined team was stretched mainly from among the Army sportsmen and as recalled by N. Shelenkov, the Merited Trainer of the USSR and a participant of the XVth Olympic Games, the Soviet team at that time had no experience in international competitions whatsoever. Nevertheless, the Soviet participants competed on equal terms with the renowned horsemen of the world, though they did not manage to collect the number of points in unofficial entry interteam competitions. The main task of the Soviet team at that time was to reach the finish as close as possible and to comprehend that the Olympic routes were passable.
That year was a turning one for the development of the Soviet equestrian sports. Our sportsmen began learning more thoroughly methods of preparation for such competitions, examining the conditions of training and competing from the scientific angle. They payed more attention to scrutinizing the rules and requirements of the International Equestrian Federation.
The XVIth Olympic Games took place in Stockholm in 1956 where the Soviet team showed better results with our participants ranking the seventh in the three day event.
At the XVIIth Olympic Games in Rome in 1960 for the first time a participant from the Soviet Union won a gold medal for dressage. The winner was S. Filatov when riding Akhal-Teke Absent from the Lugovsky stud. Our participants in the three day event did not manage to win in team scoring. It should be noted that one year earlier, in 1959, the Soviet equestrian team participating in the concours-hippique in Paris won Prix de Nations defeating the best competing participants from other countries.
The XVIIIth Olympic Games were held in Tokio in 1964 where our team won prized placings for dressage.
The Soviet equestrian sportsmen perfected their skill from one Olympiad to another. In 1968 in Mexico at the XIXth Olympic Games the Soviet team took a lead in dressage, when I. Kizimov riding stallion Ikhor raised at Alexan- driisky stud won the Olympic Championship.
In 1972 in Munich at the XXth Olympic Games the excellent dressage performance was demonstrated by Soviet equestrian masters E. Petushkova, I. Kizimov and I. Kalita. They won a gold medal in team scoring. It was a brilliant victory of the Soviet school of dressage and in particular that of G. T. Anastasiyev, the Merited Trainer of the USSR and the coach of the Soviet team.
In 1976 at the XXIst Games in Montreal the Soviet team performed lower results comparing to its potentialities and did not win any medals.
The culminating achievement was demonstrated by Soviet sportsmen at the XXII-d Olympic Games held in 1980 in Moscow. Moscovites had done their best to be ready to meet their foreign guests. The first class equestrian sports complex was built in Bitsa Forest Park located in the southern part of Moscow which included all necessary facilities for every type of equestrian competitions. The parade square in front of the equestrian palace is decorated with fountains and with a huge sculpture of horses. The square adjoins the concours stadium with a sitting capacity of 12 thous. spectators. The stadium field is covered with sod making it completely dustproof. The complex is equipped with a roofed winter manege sitting 2 thous. spectators. The latter sides with an open manege for summer dressage shows and next to it - stables of 400 horses total capacity, veterinary center and fodder storage. The steeplechase circle with the main course of 1650 m. long is located in the immediate proximity of the stadium whence the routes of "high roads" and those leading to the country-cross site commence and recede far into Bitsa Forest Park. There field competions included into the three day event are held.
The Olympic Games in Moscow were marked with a high sporting level. They were attended by outstanding participating equestrian teams from Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Guatemala, India, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Roumania, the USSR. The FEI members noted with satisfaction the splendid preparation of Bitsa complex and its unique facilities.
The three day event participants were the first ones to start. The competitions completed with the victory of the Soviet team awarded a gold medal. The second and the third placings in personal scoring belonged to the Soviet participants A. Blinov when riding Galzun and Yu. Salnikov when riding Pintset, who won accordingly silver and bronze medals. The Olympic championship among the teams participating in the coucours-hippique was splendidly won by the Soviet team composed of N. Korolkov (a silver medal in personal scoring) when riding stallion Espadron, and three Victors - Poganovsky when riding Topok, Asmayev when riding Reis and Chukanov when riding Gepatite. The third gold medal in team scoring and accordingly the Olympic championship was won by the Soviet masters of the riding school (dressage). They were Yu. Kovshov (a silver medal in personal scoring) when riding horse Igrok, V. Ugryumov when riding Shkval and V. Misevich when riding Plot.
The performing results gained by the Soviet combined equestrian team at the XXII-d Olympic Games in Moscow were excellent: three gold, three silver and two bronze medals.
The high sporting skill, tenacity and the strong winning will manifested at the Moscow Olympiad by the Soviet equestrian sportsmen were honourably appraised by the Communist Party and the Soviet government. A large group of sportsmen and coaches was awarded the USSR orders and medals.