Ribbons and Pony Tails: Women Equestrians in the Olympics

We are almost at the end of March. International Women's Month may almost be over, but we still have one last hoorah for the phenomenal females we are celebrating for this four-part special. For this issue, we will be taking a closer look at some of the Female Equestrians who made such extraordinary impact to the world of Olympic Games and how they have further raised the flag for gender equality.   


Essentially everyone knows about the Olympics. Every four years, athletes from all around the globe come together and compete for medals and recognition for their respective countries. Olympics feature alternatively Summer and Winter sports tournament and can be considered the most prestigious in its own game. The matches are mostly inspired by ancient Olympic games in Greece that happened long before we were all born, from 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. The first International Olympic Committee was founded in 1894 which gave birth to the contemporary Games in Athens in 1896. As for equestrianism, it was introduced in the Summer Olympics in 1900 in Paris, France. Although it was discontinued for the next 12 years after the debut; the sport came back in 1913 and has been in the Olympics ever since. Since then, and even until now, the disciplines that are being practiced are Dressage, Eventing, and Jumping.  


Female Equestrians  

Even though the Olympic Games have been around since the 8th Century, back in the old days, women are either not that interested or are not allowed to participate in Olympic events, mainly because of gender disparity. Females were finally allowed to join equestrian sports in 1952 and subsequently became an integral part of the sport. Below are some of the female equestrians we will be recognizing for the fact that they have shown bravery, talent, and competitiveness in the midst of Olympic sports mainly being occupied by males.   


Lis Hartel  

Lis Hartel

Lis was a Danish dressage champion and is one of the first females to ever compete in the Olympic Games in 1952. She was chosen to represent her country Denmark at the Helsinki Olympic Games. She was first honed by her mother during her beginnings but eventually was groomed and made ready even further by professional horseman Gunnar Andersen when she started participating in competitions. She competed and won several awards for dressage between 1943 and 1944. But when she was just 23 years of age, she acquired polio and she became paralyzed on both legs below the knee and also affected her arms and hands. She was thought to not be able to ever ride and compete again because of the effects the disease left on her, but she destroyed all those notions when she eventually revived most of her muscle strength due to her strong will and conviction after undergoing extensive rehabilitation.   

Just after three years, even with her legs still paralyzed, she started competing in dressage again with her horse Jubilee, this time in the coveted Olympic Games of Helsinki. She shocked everyone when she finished for a silver medal when she had to be helped to get on her horse before the event because of her disability. She did not stop showing the world her determination there, because just after four years she again won another silver medal at the Equestrian Games in Stockholm, Sweden. With all the vigor and bravery she had shown, she became a role model not just for women in the Olympic world, but also for polio victims who may have lost their confidence because of how much they have been affected by the disease.   


Yelena Petushkova  

Yelena Petushkova  

Yelena was born in Moscow in November 1940 and was a Russian and former Soviet equestrian with three Olympic medals under her sleeves, one gold and 2 silvers for dressage. In the 1968 Summer Olympics, she won her first silver medal, alongside with her fellow dressage team. Four years after her victory, she again slew the Summer Olympics in 1972 when she and her team this time won the gold medal. As an individual rider, she also won her third medal, finishing second to Liselott Linsenhoff. In total, she had been a national champion of Soviet Union with a total of a whopping thirteen times. If being a dressage champion is not enough, she is also a Biologist who graduated with honors from the prestigious Moscow State University. She also studied in the aspirantura of Scientific Research Institute of Pharmacology and Medicine for two years, where she received a scientific degree in Candidate of Biology Sciences.   


After her dressage career, she eventually became Soviet Union Olympic Committee Vice President from 1983 to 1991. From 1996 to 1999, she was elected as the President of the Russian Equestrian Federation. In 1997 she became the head coach for Russian National Dressage Team.   


Nicole Uphoff  

Nicole Uphoff 

Nicole is a German equestrian who gained four gold medals in the team and individual match at the 1988 and 1992 Summer Olympics. In 1985, with her horse Rembrandt, she had begun her career for young riders and in 1986, Uwe Schulten-Baumer became her coach. Just after a year, she had joined other equestrians in the international level for dressage championship. She and Rembrandt ultimately rose to fame in no time, half of which can be associated with Rembrandt's gracefulness and intelligence in the ring and how overall, the pair had impressed the whole nation. Due to them now being well known to many, the duo was later nominated for the 1988 Olympics where they have successfully bagged the gold medal for both individual and team categories. After then, 1989 became a historic year for the German team, which included Rembrandt and Uphoff, for it was the first ever year the team consisted of all female riders. In 1992, they have competed again this time for the Barcelona Olympics and once more nailed the gold medal, coining Rembrandt as a "living work of art" by one commentator.   


Numerous gold medals and recognitions have been given to Uphoff and her trusted steed along the way, both in World Championships and European Events. Unfortunately, Rembrandt's health began declining as time goes and he started having difficulties being nominated for the Summer Olympics. In 1996, the winning pair gave a farewell show at the Stuttgart Indoor Show and made one last impression to the audience that loved and adored them. On the sad day of October 30, 2001, Rembrandt was euthanized because they don’t want to prolong his agony, as his health has been declining fast and was unable to stand up and move. In 2013, Rembrandt's rider, Uphoff officially retired from the whole competition.   


There you have it, four wonderful articles showing the importance of women and the contributions they have in the equestrian world. Even while being regarded as the weaker sex, women from all over the world, of all shapes and sizes, have shown everyone that what men can do, women can also do, sometimes even better. If there is one thing that I think is the overall morale of all the things that have been done to promote equality, I think it is that muscles and mustaches don't always mean superiority. Some can wear dresses and be the best in their craft. And gender must not be the basis of how low or high someone is. Talent, confidence, dreams, and perseverance are just some of the traits that can make any gender exceptional. Thus, as the Month or Women comes to an end, we shout the loudest and the sincerest recognition to all Females out there who are the best of who they are. You all make the world a better place to live in.  


Did you find the articles interesting and educational? Share your thoughts in the comment below and tell us how you think women have helped shaped the equestrian world to the prestigious place that it is today. And don't forget to subscribe to our mailing list for more interesting readings.   


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