A common source of confusion among equestrian enthusiasts is: What's the difference, horse-sport-wise, between a World Equestrian Games and an Olympic Games?
A WEG is the quadrennial world championships for all eight of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) disciplines: dressage, para-equestrian dressage, eventing, jumping, driving, vaulting, reining, and endurance. As such the WEG is produced by, and governed by, the FEI.
The 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Caen, Normandy, France, begin tomorrow, August 23, with the opening ceremony and conclude September 7. Click here for a downloadable schedule of events -- which include not only the equestrian competition, but also a full lineup of concerts at the Alltech Music Festival and this year's exhibition sport, horse ball!
The Olympic Games -- the summer Olympics, to be precise -- also are a quadrennial international sporting championships, but they differ in some significant ways from a WEG.
For starters, the obvious: Olympics feature many sports besides equestrian. And only three equestrian disciplines are included: dressage, eventing, and jumping.
A very important but more subtle difference between a WEG and an Olympics is in the governance. Olympic Games are governed by the International Olympic Committee, under which fall all of the Olympic sports' international federations, including the FEI. The IOC's goals for the Olympics may differ somewhat from those of the FEI -- for one, the IOC places emphasis on global participation by as many nations as possible -- and therefore rules for the equestrian events at Olympic Games frequently are different from the strict FEI rules, right down to the dressage tests themselves. In London 2012, for example, competitors rode an "Olympic Grand Prix Special" that was shorter than the standard GP Special -- the better to fit in more competitors.
Aside from these differences, to the three Olympic equestrian disciplines, a WEG gold medal and an Olympic gold medal are equally prestigious. The Olympics get more mainstream press, but the competition is equally stiff. In fact, one could argue that in some cases a WEG medal is more prestigious -- such as in eventing, which is the sport most likely to have its track made a little less challenging at the Olympics, in order to accommodate the less-experienced nations.