Get Inspired: EQUESTRIAN

Equestrian is the only Olympic sport to involve animals, not to mention the lone event in which men and women compete alongside each other on entirely equal terms.

It is also one of the most varied and enthralling of sports - from the discipline of dressage to the danger of eventing to the drama of jumping, equestrian is an entertaining and exciting spectacle.

Why is it good for you?

An hour's riding burns about 120 calories at walking pace, 360 calories at trotting pace and 480 at galloping pace. Although it may seem that the horse is receiving all the exercise, this equates to the calories lost in a 30-minute jog or cycle ride carried out at a similar speed.

The position taken when riding a horse works muscles in the dorsal and abdominal region that are seldom used in everyday life. It provides steady exercise without straining the knee and ankle joints.

Horse riding is further recognised as possessing excellent therapeutic and stress relieving qualities due to the relationship developed between rider and horse.

Equestrian sports are enjoyed by people of all ages, as shown by German rider Reiner Klimke who won six Olympic gold medals between 1964 and 1988.

Get involved

Horse riding is a sport that anyone can participate in, regardless of age, ability or background.  Lessons are important for beginners as mastering the basics ensures safety.

Anky van Grunsven

Equestrian at the Olympics explained (Part one)

The majority of riding centres and schools provide horses for use in any lesson or session, as well as essential equipment such as a riding hats and saddle. Other recommended pieces such as body protectors, jodhpurs and riding boots can be bought from equine retailers.

There are currently believed to be 4.3m horse riders in the United Kingdom. Visit the British Equestrian Federation's club finder  to discover where your local riding centre is located.

Horsescotland  and Horse Sport Ireland  also offer training schemes from apprentice to expert level.

More on the British Equestrian Federation website 

History

Dressage is considered the art of equestrian sport and goes as far back as ancient Greece.

Did you know?

At the 1936 Olympics, Czech rider Otomar Bures took two hours 36 minutes to complete the 8km cross-country course, for which the time limit was 17 minutes 46 seconds. He incurred more than 18,000 penalty points.

It has been part of the Olympic programme since 1912, although until 1948 only men competed in the events as the riders had to be officers. Women have competed since the Helsinki Games in 1952.

Jumping developed from foxhunting in England and appeared at the Olympics in one form or another from 1896, although the equestrian programme as a whole really took hold in 1912. Women first took part in 1956.

Eventing also made its Olympic debut in 1912 and was dominated by military entrants until the competition was broadened to include civilian riders in 1952.

More on the IOC website 

Are you inspired to try Equestrian? Or maybe you are an enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the activity by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.