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equestrianism, art of riding and handling a horse. Horseback riding was practiced as far back as the Bronze Age and was thereafter adapted to commerce, industry, war, sport, and recreation. Diverse styles of riding developed, and the saddle, as well as the stirrup and other riding aids, were manufactured along with the other appurtenances to horseback riding. At the two extremes of riding are the jockey's riding style, sacrificing comfort and security in the interest of speed, and the cowboy's (western) style, more relaxed for long hours of work. Riding as a skilled sport developed from the style of mounted knights in the medieval period. The so-called academy style is popular in the E United States as well as in Europe. Riding as recreation has become increasingly popular in the United States, particularly in metropolitan and suburban areas.
Horse shows, originated by Ireland's Royal Dublin Society (1864), offer riders a chance to test their skills in competition. Contests are held among hunters, jumpers, ponies, and three- and five-gaited horses; a test of overall training and obedience, known as the dressage event, is also held. The major horse show in the United States is the National Horse Show (originated 1883). Equestrian events have been held in the Olympic games since 1912. Olympic competitions include dressage, jumping (Prix de Nations), and a three-day all-around competition that involves dressage, jumping, and endurance. A significant number of teams in international competition are military teams. See also horse racing.
See M. Gordon-Watson, The Handbook of Riding (1982); W. C. Steinkraus and M. A. Stoneridge, The Horse in Sport (1987).