What is the purpose of the Olympics? For the few thousand bureaucrats who divvy up the Games, give out contracts, and get kickass bribes, it is to enrich themselves. For everyone outside of the corruption apparatus of the Olympics, they are an exhibit of the best sportspeople, playing their sports. The fastest runners race against each other; the world’s foremost archers see who is the most accurate; the handballers handball it out. The Olympics are neither perfect nor comprehensive, but in a broad sense, they are a celebration of human performance.
This is why they should get these fuckin’ horses out of my face.
The 2016 Rio Olympics will feature 300 real sports and six sports for horses. If you want, you can watch people ride horses and make them dance, make them jump over things, and make them, uh, “event.” You won’t, because you are a good and rational sports watcher, but the horse people will. There is plenty of righteous anger directed at the Rio Olympics for staging the Games in the midst of an economic and political crisis, but the lack of anti-equestrian takes has been, frankly, alarming. There are horses (who are not people) in the Olympics (for people) and everyone seems to be fine with this.
I am sure that riding a horse and making it do horse tricks is a difficult skill to acquire and hone to an Olympic level. Also, though, you aren’t doing anything but riding a horse—far easier than running a marathon or lifting weights. (My colleague Hannah Keyser, a horse sports enthusiast, thinks these takes are fit only for the garbage can, but I say she’s wrong.) Riders in equestrian events are entirely beholden to the skills of their mounts. The horses earn the medals, not the humans. The Olympics are to test the limits of human athletic abilities, not the limits of horse breeding and training. If horses want their own Olympics, well they can have them. This is an animal walking, and it does not belong in the Olympics.
Some may call this line of logic “anthrocentric”—i.e. anti-horse— to which I would respond, “Yep.” There are plenty of great sports that don’t involve horse abuse that are excluded from the Olympics, like baseball, karate, and cricket. The only good horse sports I’m aware of are jousting (which is more of an overly vicious paleo-sport that nobody practices anyway), rodeo (mostly bulls), and polo (which appeared in five Games before getting axed after the Hitler Olympics). Racing is fine. I have no opinion on horse jumping, and I don’t see how anyone could. Dressage, where the horses “dance,” is for bland rich people like Mitt Romney.
The best you can say for dressage is that it’s the most ostentatiously aristocratic of the three Olympic horsey sports, but all horse sports are for the privileged, not the people. Most everyone can run. Not everyone can afford to run a horse around an obstacle course. The Olympics were founded by the aristocracy, but the presence of sports like sailing makes sense, because people have to still sail the boats, unlike horse stuff, where they just sit on a horse. There are plenty of cooler animals you could sit on for the purpose of “sports,” but horse sitting has made its way to the Olympics because rich people can afford to sit on horses and I suppose humans and horses have some military history.
Alas, despite these real and strong grievances, the Rio Olympics will be awash in horse events. The world is an unfair place, the Olympic Games especially so. Three weeks of running, swimming, and disease-ridden water will be interrupted by brief interludes of horses trotting and shitting. It’s a small interruption, yet still an affront to the idea of the Olympics. The horse lobby is strong (probably), so I doubt that equestrian events at the Olympics are going anywhere, but they are bad and should be abolished. Get these quadrupeds out of here!