When I think of summer Olympic sports, I think of track and field, swimming, gymnastics, equestrian and a few other staples.

But now because I have successfully made it to middle-age, I look at some of the new sports being introduced and I think how seemingly unsuitable. Skateboarding for one and new to the 2024 lineup is what they call “breaking,” which is what we call breakdancing.

Yes, I’m aware there’s a lot of skill involved with both athletic endeavors and yes, there are probably just as many injuries in these sports as any other. It just seems to me that these sports are a little bizarre for the Olympics or maybe I need to be more hip to the game. Who knows?

Learning that breakdancing is considered an Olympic sport, I gathered that there must be a rather long list of peculiar sports that have been deemed Olympic-worthy. And so, my dear readers, this is the rabbit hole we shall venture down today.

Olympic Horse Sports

Horses made their big debut in the Olympics in the 1900 Paris Games, which you’ll see is a running theme here.

There were five disciplines in total, but they aren’t what you might think.

There was jumping, long jump, high jump, mail coach and hacks and hunters combined. Four of the five events were dropped from the Olympic roster after their debut and I’ll discuss those now.

Jumping or show jumping, as we like to call it, is the only remaining sport from the early days of the modern Games.

Horse Long Jump

This is exactly as it sounds.

Which horse and rider duo can jump the furthest? Picture a water jump that you’d see in a grand prix today, that’s how they got the distance rather than the height. After each successful attempt, the take-off point was moved back in increments.

The competition started with a spread of 4.50m/14’8”, which is the maximum spread in any grand prix today. All 17 competitors in the 1900 Games successfully made the leap, however, once widened to 4.90m/16’07” most of the field fell away. The winning leap was 6.10m/20’ made by Constant van Langhendonck and Extra-Dry from Belgium.

Horse High Jump

This sounds a lot like the Puissance, which it was. The main difference is instead of jumping a wall, as today, it looks as though they jumped a brush fence with a rail.

During the 1900 Games, there were 19 competitors, though back then you were allowed to enter more than one horse, so there were 19 horses and 18 humans competing.

The starting height was 1.20m/3’9”, which seems rather Pony Club. The bar was raised in 10cm increments and then later 5cm and each horse and rider pair was allowed three attempts at each height. At the end of the day, the gold medal was shared by Dominique Gardères on Canella from France and Gian Giorgio Trissino on Oreste from Italy for clearing a height of 1.85m/6’06”.

As a point of interest, the Puissance record is held by Germany’s Franke Sloothaak and Optiebeurs Golo who cleared 2.14m/7’10.5” in 1991. The bareback Puissance record is held by Irish chef d’equipe Michael Blake.

Mail Coach

Mail Coach. On the surface, it sounds very curious indeed. However, with a smidge of research it was clear that Mail Coach is a fancy way of saying Four-in-Hand Driving. Which I suppose is how the mail was once delivered.

Mail Coach was a demonstration sport at the 1900 Games and there isn’t anything written about what the contestants were asked to do. All I can find is that a mail coach was pulled by four horses and driven by one man.

While there are records of the gold, silver and bronze medal winners, there are no precise details of which of the 29 entrants started and/or finished. There is also some confusion as to who was at the helm, as it were, during competition. Was there a special driver or did the owner do the driving? Nobody seems to know, but such is life.

Hacks and Hunters Combined

This was another demonstration sport held during the 1900 Games. I suspect, and I’m going out on a limb here, that Hacks and Hunters Combined (HHC) was the forefather to the class we know today as Hunter Hack.

During the Games, those who entered the HHC were asked to walk, trot, canter and hand gallop. Once that was done individuals would head out and do a short pattern that included small jumps.

It is, once again, unclear how many people competed in this class, as some sources say 50 while others say 29, but what is consistently stated is that three women competed, which is a nice piece of information.

This sport, as with Mail Coach, did not cut the mustard and will forever remain a one-time demonstration sport.