A Christmas present for horse-sport lovers

Book Review: An Illustrated History of Equestrian Sports by Marie de Pellegars-Malhortie and Benoit Capdebarthes. Published by Flammarion. Price: Hardback £35

This stunning book arrived in our offices to be reviewed – as soon as I saw the stunning cover I made a bid to be the lucky one to take it home!

This book is one for horse-sports lovers, it documents the history of competitive horse riding from 1912 – when the sport first appeared at the modern Olympic Games in Stockholm – right up to the present date.

It is not however full of impenetrable blocks of text but it is presented in blocks of competition results from the Olympics, European Champs and FEI World Equestrian Games, broken up into decades with both individual and team achievements listed across the disciplines of show jumping, dressage and eventing. What I love about it is that each decade has exceptional riders or horses or newsworthy events are picked out.

For example, horsemen and women like Richard and Harry Meade, Hans Gunter Winkler and Charlotte Dujardin; events like women competing at the Olympic Games, and horses like Milton and Rusty, are given their own fascinating write-ups.

Scott Brash, who had been a London Olympic team champion in 2012 and was among the favourites, fell victim to food poisoning from a suspect hamburger and was unable to start the competition in the best condition

So even though the old days are long before you were even born it was really interesting to see the riders of their time, their horses and read of the exploits that helped turn modern equestrian sport into the global phenomenon that it is today.

Each page is richly illustrated with amazing photos and each picture comes with fascinating caption insights into the competition or the times it ran in.

For example in 1985 at the FEI European Champs you read that, ‘At this time it was not uncommon for judges to be biased toward riders from their own country. They also often formed alliances with co-panelists that reflected military pacts between their countries of origin, a fact that was reflected in their scoring’. Sounds a bit like today’s Eurovision Song contest I thought!

You also learn things like – at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy that ‘The day before jumping competition, the British rider, Scott Brash, who had been a London Olympic team champion in 2012 and was among the favourites, fell victim to food poisoning from a suspect hamburger and was unable to start the competition in the best condition. Sleep-deprived and exhausted, Scott and his faithful Hello Sanctos committed a fault in the table C competition.’

The book is literally littered with really fascinating snippets from these competitions. I absolutely love dipping in and out of it – even to the long-ago days as the information given is fascinating. An absolute winner of a book for horse lovers anywhere.

An Illustrated History of Equestrian Sports by Marie de Pellegars-Malhortie and Benoit Capdebarthes. Published by Flammarion. RRP: Hardback £35

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