What is an Equestrian?

By: Travis Moore

In olden times, the equestrian was thought to be part of Rome’s nobility, a member of the cavalry. These days, equestrians are more riders, participating in equestrian sports. Horses played a key role in mankind’s history, serving many purposes that ranged from transportation to that of heavy cavalry. But with the advent of technology, most horses are now found working in farms, circuses and driving carriages in amusement rides.

Equestrian Tidbits

Today’s equestrians are known more for equestrianism. This refers to people’s horse riding and driving abilities. The definition is not limited to using horses for sports and recreational activities. It also includes utilizing them for work and other practical uses. Equestrianism points to other skills aside from riding horses for equestrian sports.

Horses are ridden and trained for many practical purposes – from police work to controlling ranch herd animals. Some of the notable horse competition forms are grouped together at horse events or shows where horses perform in various disciplines. Horses along with other “equids” like donkeys and mules, are also used for non-competitive recreational activities – hacking, fox hunting and trail riding.

Equestrian – A Bit of History…

History shows that horses served many purposes. These creatures were used both in peaceful as well as war pursuits – from agriculture to warfare to transportation. Rome regarded the equestrian as representing the elite set. Back then, horses were pretty pricey so if you owned one, it said something about your financial status and meant manual labor was not for you.

Equestrians belonged to Rome’s social upper class, the knights. A combination political and military group, the government provided monetary compensation to the horsemen. But the expansion of Rome saw it relying on its many allies for the cavalry. Seeing no use for equestrians, they quickly lost their military function.

The equestrians ceased engaging in war. However, they still retained their titles that indicated nobility. With their riches, equestrians ran the provinces. During this interesting time, equestrians were ranked right up there with the senators.

While senators ruled over the magistrate offices, they were not allowed to operate businesses and gain any commercial income. Meanwhile, the equestrian population continued investing in tax farming and marketing firms. Conflicts soon arose between these two groups.

Equestrians generated as much money as they could while the senators were left to deal with rebellions resulting from over-taxation. The civil wars period saw the two elite groups collaborating, with well-defined orders as reforms were undertaken.

Equestrians Today

The modern-day equestrian is noted for taking part in equestrian sports during the Olympics. As in previous times, horseback riding is still mostly reserved for the wealthier set of society. Horses today are just as expensive and remain highly prized as they were centuries earlier.

The events included in equestrian sports include show jumping, eventing and dressage. Good equestrians can make horses execute natural movements upon request- all while they run loose during competitive dressage activities. This “horse ballet” develops horses’ athletic abilities and initiatives for potential maximization.

Show jumping acts are timed events where equestrians jump over series of obstacles with few mistakes. Rider and horse must go through the obstacles and aim to have the least number of knocked over portions of the hurdles.

Eventing combines show jumping and dressage. Horse-and-rider teams need to go through a set of fixed obstacles like water, ditches, stone walls and log banks. They must hurdle everything at the quickest time possible.

The equestrian’s role has changed through the past hundred years. Nevertheless, equestrians still hold the air of grace and nobility that they had enjoyed back in medieval times. There remains that hint of exclusivity that was associated with the equestrian during earlier time periods.


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