Equestrian at the 1936 Summer Olympics
The Equestrian Events at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics included Dressage, Eventing, and Show Jumping. All three disciplines had both individual and team competitions. The host country, Germany, had a stellar year, winning both individual and team gold in every equestrian event, as well as individual silver in dressage. The competitions were held from August 12, 1936 to August 16, 1936. Moderately-priced tickets meant huge crowds at all equestrian events, with 15,000-20,000 spectators at any time during the dressage competition, 60,000 on the endurance day of eventing, and 120,000 for the Nations Cup in jumping.
There were 127 riders total (133 entries) from 21 nations (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States). Seven countries (Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the USA) fielded 3-person teams for all three disciplines. Of those 127 riders, only two were civilians: a Dutch eventer and a jumper rider from Norway. The majority of horses were German (24/133) or French-bred (23/133), with 25 coming that were either British or Irish-bred (it is thought 17 from Ireland and 8 Britain), 8/133 US-bred (all on the US team, in addition to one French-bred horse), and the Japanese riders using 2 Japanese, 2 Australian, 1 British and 1 French-bred horse.
54 riders from 18 nations competed in the jumping competition, with only 38 riders finishing the first round. Course designer August Andreae built a 1050 meter long course of 13 fences/20 jumping efforts at 1.30-1.60 meters in height. It included one double and three triple combinations and a 5 meter water jump. The jump-off course raised many fences, widened the water to 5.50 meters, and altered some of the distances between fences. Germany won its fifth equestrian gold medal in the Nations Cup. The individual medal placements required two jump-offs: the first to decide gold and silver between 2 riders who had only 1 knockdown up to that point. The second to determine bronze between 3 riders with 2 knock downs each.
The dressage competition had 29 riders from 11 nations, with the youngest rider, Heinz Pollay (age 28) winning individual gold. The 17-minute test had 22 movements, and was fought out between the Germans and the French, each with their own views of correct training. Both the individual gold and individual silver medal horses, Kronos and Absinth respectively, were originally trained by Otto Lörke. The youngest horse was 7-year-old Revue, and 5 of the horses competing, including the gold-medal winner Kronos, were only 8 years of age. There were also older horses competing, including 18-year-old Csintalan.
50 riders from 19 nations contested the eventing competition, but only 4 of the 14 nations fielding a team would finish, most with incredibly high scores. Germany managed to win both individual and team gold medals, and there is some speculation as to whether, as the home nation, they knew some of the pitfalls of the cross-country course that the other teams did not. Three obstacles on the August Andreae-designed course would have been removed under today's standards of competition, especially after the heavy rain that fell the day before Endurance. Germany won with 676 points, Poland finishing second with 991 points. Britain finished third with 9,195 points, after one of their riders fell on cross-country and his horse had to be caught (the penalty clock continued to run, and with no time limit, the team just continued to rack up penalty points). Czechoslovakia finished fourth with 18,952 points, after Capt Kawecki fell (breaking 2 ribs) and loose his horse that had to be caught.
The dressage test was 13 minutes in length. The 36km endurance course included a 7km Roads and Tracks (Phase A) to be completed in 29 min 10 sec, followed by a 12-obstacle, 4km steeplechase (6 min 40 sec optimum time), then Phase C (15km Roads and Tracks in 62 min, 30 sec). The cross-country (Phase D) was a 8km, 35-obstacle course with an optimum time of 17 min and 46 seconds. Phase E was a 2km gallop in 6 minutes. The jumping phase had obstacles with a maximum height of 1.15 meters, width of 1.50 meters, and a water jump 3.5 meters wide.
The 1936 Olympics produced controversial results, with the Germans winning all 6 gold medals, the only time in Olympic history where one team has made a clean sweep. One incident occurred on the cross-country course in the eventing competition, where the 4th fence, a 3 ft post-and-rail dropping into a pond, produced a great number of falls. The landing was much deeper than anticipated and the footing underneath did not hold up well. However, all of the German team members made it through without a problem, suggesting that the host team might have known the true condition of the obstacle.
A total of 127 horse riders from 21 nations competed at the Berlin Games:
- Austria (8)
- Belgium (3)
- Bulgaria (3)
- Czechoslovakia (9)
- Denmark (4)
- Finland (1)
- France (9)
- Germany (9)
- Great Britain (6)
- Hungary (9)
- Italy (6)
- Japan (4)
- Netherlands (9)
- Norway (6)
- Poland (6)
- Portugal (3)
- Romania (5)
- Sweden (9)
- Switzerland (6)
- Turkey (4)
- United States (8)
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- International Olympic Committee medal database
- Bryant, Jennifer O. Olympic Equestrian, A Century of International Horse Sport. Lexington, KY: Blood-Horse Publications, 2008