Women winning in equestrian sports
Last week, the world celebrated International Women’s Day, which highlights the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women across the planet. And with equestrian sports being one of the only athletic fields where men and women compete together at all levels, it is a good moment to look at some females in the Olympic horse sport disciplines who have excelled over the years.
Dressage is one discipline where women have regularly been on top in recent times, with the name of Isabell Werth of Germany immediately springing to mind. Werth holds the record for the most Olympic medals won by any equestrian athlete (10, with six gold), and the current World No.1 will be looking to repeat her victory at last spring’s 2017 FEI World Cup Dressage Final next month in Paris. At the same time, it is of course impossible to overlook Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin who, with her mount Valegro, won all the Individual titles of each championship in which she competed (Olympic Games, Europeans and the World Equestrian Games). Anky Van Gruysen and Nicole Uphoff are others in the discipline who have won multiple championship titles, and American Laura Graves is among those also looking to reach the summit of her sport with partners like Verdades.
Female athletes have also made their mark in Show Jumping, even though this equestrian discipline has generally seen men at the top of the podium. In past decades, riders like Melanie Smith Taylor of the United States won the FEI World Cup Final, and a few years ago, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the American-born German, became the first woman to rise to World No.1 in the sport. Michaels-Beerbaum and her horse Shutterfly also have three wins in the FEI World Cup Final, in addition to her Team and Individual gold medals at the World and European Championships. One of her counterparts in Jumping, American Reed Kessler, is the youngest rider to compete at the Olympic Games (at 18 years old) while Leslie Burr-Howard, also of the United States, continues to compete at a high level at the age of 61. Nor can one not forget Beezie Madden, an emblematic figure of American Show Jumping, who has triumphed at the very highest level.
In France, Pénélope Leprévost contributed to the most recent medals of the French team at the World Championships and Olympic Games, with Flora de Mariposa and Mylord Carthago. And the Australian Edwina Tops-Alexander also merits a mention, having joined Michaels-Beerbaum in the final four at the 2006 World Championship and subsequently winning the Global Champions Tour. In Great Britain, Liz Edgar and Jessica Mendoza have played big roles on the national squad.
While their compatriot and team-mate Michael Jung has built up a sensational track record in Eventing over these past few years, Germany’s Sandra Auffarth and Ingrid Klimke have also made major contributions to the national team. The former was a double gold medalist at the last World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France in 2014, while the latter, who has also reached a very good level in Show Jumping and Dressage, returned from the Beijing and London Olympics with a Team gold medal around her neck before capturing the Individual title with Horseware Hale Bob at the 2017 European Eventing Championship in Poland.
In Britain, Pippa Funnel is still the only female rider to have won the Eventing Grand Slam (Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley), and both she and teammate Tina Cook have won Individual gold at European Championships. Gemma Tattersall won the Event Rider Masters championship in 2017, beating top male rivals, while in the USA, Kimberley Seversome and Winsome Adante remain the only combination to win the Kentucky Three Day Event, currently the USA’s only CCI4* event, three times. They also collected an Individual silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Finally, last October, Gwendolen Fer made history by becoming the first French woman to win a CCI4* when she took the title in Pau in the southwest of the country on her horse Romantic Love.