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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March 2004, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Man and beast in harmony
Australia's Brook Staples in action during the three-day eventing at the Sydney Olympics
The three-day event is a true test of horse and rider
In the early days, equestrian events at the Olympics were military affairs.

Only commissioned officers were allowed to compete in the three-day eventing, and just a few civilians were involved in the showjumping and dressage.

Eventing began as a test of the cavalry horse, and the term dressage comes from the French word for training, using moves developed for the battlefield and parade ground.

The jumping events evolved from the fox hunting tradition, and the first competitions were held in Ireland in the 19th century by the Royal Dublin Society.

Equestrian events made their Olympic debut in Paris in 1900, when a long jump and high jump for horses were held for the only time.

The modern program of events was introduced in 1912, and - other than a one-off vaulting event in 1920 - was little different to the current format of individual and team events in dressage, showjumping and three-day eventing.

The ban on non-military competitors was lifted in 1952, and women began competing in the same events as the men.

Denmark's Lis Hartel won a silver medal at the Helsinki Games that year despite being paralysed below the knees by polio, and repeated the feat four years later.

By its nature, equestrianism allows Olympians to enjoy a longer career than those in other more physical sports.

Italian brothers Raimondo and Piero D'Inzeo became the first Olympians to represent their country eight times - competing in every Games between 1948 and 1976.

Both won six showjumping medals - Raimondo one gold, two silver, and three bronze and Piero won two silver and four bronze.

Germans have been the masters of the dressage events, and Reiner Klimke is the most successful ever Olympic rider.

He made his Olympic debut in 1960 and won six gold and two bronze medals in individual and team events between 1964 and 1988.

Klimke's fellow German Hans Gunter Winkler performed similar heroics in showjumping, winning five gold, one silver and one bronze medal from 1956-76.

His mount Halla was the only horse to win three Olympic golds, team and individual in 1956 and team in 1960.

Dutch riders had a particularly successful Sydney games four years ago.

Jeroen Dubbeldam and Albert Voorn won gold and silver in the individual showjumping, and Anky van Grunsven broke German domination of the individual dressage.

Germany did, however, win the team event - holding off the Netherlands and the USA for the third Games in a row - and the team showjumping.

There was joy for hosts Australia as they won the team eventing ahead of Great Britain and the USA. American David O'Connor won the individual gold.

MEDAL TABLE (Top five; since 1900)
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Germany 22 13 12 47
Sweden 17 8 14 39
France 11 12 11 34
West Germany 11 5 9 25
USA 9 17 15 41

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