- 42 nations (Antigua, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain , Switzerland, Sweden, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, USA, Venezuela)
- 194 entries (77 in Jumping; 47 in Dressage; 70 in Eventing)
As in Athens, three qualification rounds decided the 35 riders allowed into the individual final. After round one, the USA and Switzerland shared the team lead with 12 penalties each, followed by Sweden (13), Great Britain and Canada (16), the Netherlands and Norway (17) and Germany and Australia (20). Those nine countries qualified for the second round, while Brazil, Ukraine, Hong Kong and China were knocked out.
Things changed over the shorter course in round two. In addition to the nine teams, there were 15 individuals, including those from eliminated teams. Australia and Canada had only three riders. Of the two leaders, the United States added only eight faults to the 12 from the first round. Their 20 faults were equalled by Canada’s three-rider team with two clear rounds. So for the first time in the history of the equestrian Olympic Games, there was a head-to-head for team gold. In the jump-off between the two North American neighbours, Canada was clearly at a disadvantage with just three riders and it was Will Simpson who clinched the title for the USA, with their third clear round. Norway took third place.
In the race for individual honours, Norway's Tony Andre Hansen was in the lead with three faults, ahead of Jos Lansink (BEL), McLain Ward (USA), Edwina Alexander (AUS) and Eric Lamaze (CAN) with four faults each.
However, four positives for the prohibited substance Capsaicin were reported just before the final Jumping competition and the following four riders/horses were not allowed to compete in the individual final.
They were (in brackets their placing after the three qualifying competitions):
- Tony Andre Hansen NOR Camiro (1st)
- Denis Lynch IRL Lantinus (8th)
- Bernardo Alves BRA Chupa Chup (27th)
- Christian Ahlmann GER Coster (31st)
The B samples were tested after the final and the results were confirmed at the end of August. All were positive which also meant that Norway would lose their bronze medal. Due to arbitration and appeals as a result of these cases, there was a major delay in redistributing the bronze medal, which was awarded to Switzerland in 2010. A fifth case concerning Rodrigo Pessoa with the horse Rufus who had finished 5th in the individual Jumping final, also became known following the detection of traces of Nonivamide (a synthetic version of Capsaicin).
After the suspension of the four riders, substitutions went down to 47th place, but there were still only 34 starters. Of the seven trying for bronze, Beezie Madden (USA) claimed the medal with the fastest time with a clear round, 12 hundredths of a second ahead of Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER). In the two-way jump-off for gold, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) on Ninja and Eric Lamaze (CAN) on Hickstead stopped the clock on exactly the same time, 38.39 seconds, but the Swedish combination hit the final wall to hand gold to Lamaze.
For the first time two designers were responsible for the Olympic courses at Sha Tin: Leopoldo Palacios (who had previously built in 2000) and Steve Stephens.
Germany and the Netherlands were always going to be the most likely contenders for team gold and many observers of the Dressage scene expected the Dutch to be ahead of the Germans in Hong Kong, but it was not to be, with the Germans taking their 12th team gold by a comfortable margin from the Dutch. Denmark was third, ahead of the United States.
The long-term rivalry between Anky van Grunsven (NED) and Isabell Werth (GER) continued in Hong Kong with victory going to Anky van Grunsven on Salinero, leaving Isabell Werth on Satchmo in second. It was Salinero’s superior performance in the Kür to Music that clinched the title for Van Grunsven, who became the first rider to win three individual Olympic titles in any of the three equestrian disciplines.
Twenty-five of the 47 Grand Prix starters qualified for the Grand Prix Special, the first of two competitions to count towards the individual placings. Isabell Werth and Satchmo took the lead ahead of Anky van Grunsven and a much improved Heike Kemmer. Steffen Peters (USA), was fourth on Ravel, ahead of a surprising Alexandra Korelova of Russia and Bernadette Pujals of Mexico. Fifteen made it to the Kür to Music. Here the defending champions, Anky van Grunsven and Salinero were four percentage points ahead of Isabell Werth, enough to offset their deficit from the Special and claim the gold. Heike Kemmer was only fourth in the Kür but that was good enough for the bronze ahead of Steffen Peters, who finished third in the Kür. Interestingly, all three German and two of the Dutch horses were Hannoverians.
In February 2008 the technical delegate, Giuseppe della Chiesa and the course designer, Michael Etherington-Smith decided to reduce the length of the cross-country course at Beas River, from 5,700m to 4,560 meters (with 39 jumping efforts and an optimum time of 8min), but the teams only learned of the matter at the first briefing in Hong Kong.
Of the 24 nations competing, nine had full teams of five, Brazil fielded four, while the defending Olympic champions, France, were reduced to three when they lost Jean Teulere’s Espoir de la Mare and Nicolas Touzaint's Galan de Sauvagere due to lameness. On the Cross Country, a third French rider, Jean-Renaud Adde was eliminated after a first fall - a rule introduced only two months before.
Of the starters, 44 finished the Cross Country without obstacle-penalties and 15 more had time penalties. Of those 59, one was eliminated in the jumping and three did not go. Among the starters, there was for the first time, a Chinese rider and a Jamaican rider. The Chinese, 18-year-old Alex Hua Tian, who lives in England, had qualified at the three star CCI in Bialy Bor (POL) in April, where he finished second. In Beas River he was eliminated for a fall on the cross country.
In the team competition, Australia took the lead after dressage, ahead of Germany, the United States and Great Britain. After the cross-country, Australia and Germany had switched places. Great Britain had moved in to third while the USA, after the elimination of Amy Tryon and disappointing rides for Karen O'Connor and Rebecca Holder, were down to seventh. Nothing changed in the medal placings during the jumping, which meant that Germany finally won team gold after missing out in 2004 due to the Bettina Hoy incident.
The individual champion Hinrich Romeike (GER) was seventh after dressage, while the other two individual medal winners, Gina Miles (USA) and Kristina Cook (GBR), were 10th and 13th at this early stage. Romeike had the third fastest time across country to take the lead after the second day. In the team jumping, Romeike and Marius had one knockdown, but were clear second time around to clinch individual gold. Both Gina Miles and Kristina Cook, slightly slower on the cross country than Romeike, were clear in the two jumping rounds to claim silver and bronze. Ingrid Klimke on Abraxxas, in an individual medal position after cross- country, fell back to fifth place after 4 + 5 faults in the two jumping rounds. Mark Todd (NZL), in his come-back after an absence of eight years, finished 17th.
Hinrich Romeike’s double gold was all the more impressive because of his amateur status, fitting in his training around his full time job as a dentist in Rendsburg, Germany.