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How to Become an Olympic Rider
 By Winniefield Park   •   4th Oct 2013   •   8,196 views   •   1 comments
How to Become an Olympic Rider

When I was still in grade school, I visited the booth of the Canadian Equestrian Team at the Royal Winter Fair. For a small donation, I received a ribbon slip printed with gold lettering that said, “I support the Canadian Equestrian Team.” For weeks afterwards, I wore the ribbon to school but with the portion that said, “I Support the”, folded under. My Olympic dream clearly hasn't come true. We have to wait for the 2016 Summer Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to watch. And the FEI is still sorting out new qualifying proposals. However, just in case you think you're still eager to go, here's your path to becoming an Olympic Equestrian.

A lot of Olympic riders start out in 4-H or Pony Club. Many got their start at local shows and on high school and college equestrian teams. Essential throughout the process is a good coach who is knowledgeable about the requirements of competition. Most states or provinces will have its formal organization that manages the circuits in one or more discipline. It's important to be a member of this organization and follow its rules.

In many countries, Olympic hopefuls can become involved in Young Riders programs. In North America, there is a Young Riders program for each of the FEI sports, including those contested at the Olympics. From this pool of talent springs future Olympians. Young Riders is available to all youth riders from fourteen to twenty years-of-age and offers progressive levels of competition and an introduction to competing under FEI rules.

The time and financial commitment for Olympic qualification are intense, as is the competition. As a member of Young Riders, or any other group with the intent of qualifying, you will need to be an active team player. Most of your time will be spent in preparation for competing or in actual competition. To offset the costs, you may have to seek out sponsorships and will be responsible for representing them appropriately.

From there it's on to Grand Prix and international competition. As you work your way up through the levels of competition, you will be competing in increasingly difficult tests and over higher and more technical jumps. You may also be qualifying for competitions like North American Championships, European Championships and the World Equestrian Games. Doing well at these top-level shows will help put you in contention for the Olympic qualifications.

Not all riders come through the Young Riders programs, however. Consider that in the 2012 Olympics, seventy-year-old Hiroshi Hoketsu competed in dressage. He first competed in the Olympics in 1964, and remained competitive. Hoketsu, in the intervening time had a very successful business career, affording him, no doubt, the resources with which to pursue his passion. (Maybe if I win a lottery, it's not too late.)

Being a one-horse competitor like Hoketsu is unusual, as aspiring Olympians will no doubt be riding a number of leased, and possibly imported horses. While the focus may be on qualifying one horse, there will likely need to be another horse or two waiting in the wings. And, you'll be working with a team of veterinarians, grooms, coaches and other support staff who will contribute to your success.

Follow these simple steps and I'll be cheering for you for in Rio.

Image Credit: © Tarczas | Dreamstime.com
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