Equestrian guide - London 2012 Olympic Games

Your complete guide to equestrianism ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Photograph: Equestrian via Shutterstock

Converted: The most egalitarian Olympic sport with men and women competing together, not to mention horses.

Confused: Ann Romney's pony club.

RECOMMENDED: See our full list of London 2012 Olympic sport guides

Equestrian - The essential guide

Street cred: It would be unfair to say that only posh people take part in equestrian events but then again, Great Britain’s three best medal hopes come in the form of an old Etonian, a German property billionaire’s granddaughter and a member of the royal family.

Who’s good? German riders dominated the last Olympics.

The basics: Equestrianism is split into three disciplines:

Dressage – riders perform a series of movements, some to music, with routines marked by a panel of judges. It’s like a horse ballet (but without the equine cruelty that implies).

Showjumping – riders complete a course of about 15 fences and are penalised for faults.

Eventing – a gruelling combination of dressage, showjumping and cross-country.

Athlete to watch: Dutchman Edward Gal and his stallion Moorlands Totilas (nicknamed Toto) have been dubbed 'rock stars of the horse world'. Gal’s boyfriend is teammate Hans Peter Minderhoud.

Not to be confused with: Horse racing, rodeo.

As featured in: 'Riders' by Jilly Cooper.

Almost useless fact: Horses communicate using their eyes, ears and nostrils, although this is difficult to detect on TV.

Do say: 'Despite the locals’ protestations, Greenwich Park will provide the perfect setting for bringing this traditionally elitist sport to the masses.'

Don't say: ‘Forget the dressage, I’ve just come here to score some ketamine.’