Credit : Scoopdyga
Wednesday 25 January - 17h23 | Laure Eliot and Johanna Zilberstein
This week, certain countries like France marked the International Day of Women in Sport (the day will be celebrated on February 1st in North America). It’s an opportune moment to take a look back at a few female riders who have marked the history of equestrian sports over the years.
18 years before Michael Jung, Pippa Funnell was the first to win the Grand Slam of Eventing.Credit : Scoopdyga
It is sometimes easy to forget that horse-riding is a huge participatory sport for girls and women. To take the example of a country like France, where more than 700,000 riders are registered with the French Equestrian Federation, 83 percent are female. At the elite level, though, the situation is reversed, with women less represented among top competitors. But definitely not less talented! Below are some of the great stars who have marked history over the years in various equestrian disciplines. Pippa Funnell (Eventing)One of the emblematic representatives of women riders in the Eventing discipline is undoubtedly Pippa Funnell. A Champion of Europe, bronze medallist in the World Equestrian Games and 2004 Athens Olympics, the British rider rode into the history books by becoming in 2003 the first person to win the Grand Slam of Eventing.That year, after having claimed victory in the Lexington, Kentucky CCI 4* with Primmore’s Pride, Funnell then came out on top in Badminton in the United Kingdom a week later, where she rode Supreme Rock. Once again competing with Primmore’s Pride in Burghley, UK a few months later, Funnell achieved legendary status with a third victory in the Slam. And while big names like Andrew Nicholson and Oliver Townend have done everything they can to equal the rider’s feat over the years, it would take 18 years for a male rider to pull off the same sporting exploit — current World No.1 Michael Jung. Zara Phillips-Tindall (Show Jumping)There is not a more well-born rider on the circuit, at least in the traditional aristocratic terms. Zara Tindall, daughter of the Royal Kingdom’s Princess Anne and grand-daughter of Queen Elizabeth, followed the family passion by launching a career in Eventing. She has the name then, but also — and mainly — the talent. In 2005, she became double Champion of Europe at home in Blenheim, UK riding the excellent Toytown.A great start to be sure, but not sufficient for the Amazon and her partner. The following year, in Aachen, Germany, the British rider became the first female World Champion in Eventing at the World Equestrian Games. More than enough to enter the history books beside Pippa Funnell.For a video of that day, see the bottom of the page… Alexandra Ledermann (Show Jumping)French riders have also marked history. Now considered among the greats with her fabulous mount Rochet M, Alexandra Ledermann has had her name written in the pantheon of Show Jumping. In 1999, when she turned 30, the native of Normandy, France won the individual gold medal at the European Championships in Hickstead, England. A fantastic performance which was particularly impressive as that day she became the first women to win gold in Show Jumping at the continental championships.
Isabell Werth has won the most equestrian Olympic medals out of all the disciplinesCredit : Scoopdyga
Isabell Werth (Dressage)When it comes to Olympic medals, the current champion across equestrian disciplines is Isabell Werth. With her ten Olympic medals (including six gold), the German rider is the most decorated equestrian sports athlete at the Olympics to date. And while most are lucky to take part in an Olympic Games once in the course of a career, the dressage champ has been five times!She has shone at the Barcelona Games in 1992, Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000 with Gigolo, Beijing in 2008 with Satchmo and Rio in 2016 with Weihegold. The icing on the cake? Not once has she returned home from a Games without a gold medal around her neck! And something tells us it’s not finished… Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (Germany)Among the big names in female Show Jumpers, one has to mention Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. The Californian, small in size but large in talent, quickly made her way onto the German team after getting the option. At barely thirty years old, the rider, who obtained German citizenship through her marriage to Markus Beerbaum, became the first woman to make the Nationalmannschaft.Riding Stella, she made her debuts at the European Championships in Hickstead in 1999 in an otherwise entirely masculine squad, coming out of the competition covered in gold alongside teammates Marcus Ehning, Carsten-Otto Nagel and brother-in-law Ludger Beerbaum. As part of her story making history, ten years later Michaels-Beerbaum became the first female rider to win the World Cup Final three times. Okay, Rodrigo Pessoa had done it before her, but she was the first woman!
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