Our love for horses can be traced back to 32000BC in the Chauvet Cave in France. Home to humanity’s oldest known figurative art, it’s possible to see there an overlaid series of Stone Age depictions of horses. In the flicker of lamplight, these horses look like they’re galloping.
Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Syrians were all racing enthusiasts. The Romans took it a step further and brought their own rules of horse racing to ancient Britain. This was probably the origin of British horse riding.
By the 12th century, in the court of Henry II, knights were urging their steeds on to win prizes at London’s Smithfield Market. When James I stumbled upon Newmarket (generally considered the birthplace and global home of thoroughbred horse racing and a potential World Heritage Site) in 1605, the home of British racing was officially established.
Nowadays, the UK forces use horses, and the British Royal family is guarded by horseback soldiers, in addition to others. Horse breeders and riding clubs are abundant. The Queen herself is a big fan of thoroughbreds. In general, it’s fair to say that British culture has a prominent place for these beautiful creatures.
In everyday life, British people also have a deep respect towards these animals. They are used for special occasions such as weddings, commemorations, anniversaries and entertainment. Horse racing is also a popular sporting event in England – it’s not only a popular sport, but also a solid source of income for the UK.
Forms of competition and exhibition that can be seen throughout the UK are:
Flat racing: a form of horse racing which is run on a level race course. (Royal Ascot is famous for its flat racing). It is run over a predetermined distance from 2 furlongs (402 m) up to 3 miles (4,828 m) and is either a test of speed, stamina, or both. The skills of the jockey are determined by his ability to restrain the horse or impel it.
Eventing: a competition that combines dressage, cross-country and show jumping, usually held over a three-day period. A recognized FEI and Olympic sport.
Show jumping: is another popular competition and recreational event in England. In jumping, riders make their horses jump over a few or many obstacles in varying heights. This event takes place in riding arenas or courses. More often the height of obstacles can reach 18 inches; now show jumping has become an Olympic sport.
Classical Dressage Style: takes place on flat tracks or courses and riders use a different type of saddle. This discipline is also now an Olympic event. During the competition, riders and their horses have to perform a series of elegantly designed moves, which is why dressage is also sometimes described as “ballet for horses”.
Polo: a team sport (a similar sport is named “击鞠jījū” in Chinese, which originated from the Han Dynasty). Players score by driving a small hard white ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled wooden mallet.