- 29 nations (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherland, Norway, Portugal, Rumania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, Venezuela)
- Australia, Cambodia and Venezuela competed for the first time.
- Most of the countries sent mixed teams composed of both military officers and civilians. Switzerland, with six officers and three non-commissioned officers, was all in uniform as were the eight Portuguese. But Germany the United States and the Soviet Union fielded all-civilian teams.
- 159 entries (66 in Jumping; 36 in Dressage; 57 in Eventing)
Jumping (66 riders from 24 countries)
Dressage (36 riders from 27 nations)
Eventing (57 riders from 29 nations)
The course, designed by Greger Lewnhaupt, Olympic rider of 1948, was demanding. It consisted of 14 obstacles resulting in 17 jumping efforts spread over 775m; the speed was 400m/min. It is considered by many as the first modern course.
There were no clears in the first round. Hans Günter Winkler of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was in the lead with only one knock-down riding the great mare Halla, whose exploits are numerous and are to be counted amongst the ranks of Olympic legends. Halla had taken off early for the penultimate fence and Winkler was thrown into the air and went on to land heavily back in the saddle, pulling a groin muscle in the process. He knew that if he withdrew from the final round, the Federal Republic of Germany team would be eliminated. Dizzy and in pain, he rode anyway. Halla completed the course without a fault. They earned gold in both the individual and team events. Winkler went on to win another five gold medals at various Olympics and is the only Jumping rider to win a total of seven Olympic medals and the only rider in any equestrian discipline to earn medals in six Olympic Games.
Among the 36 starters were 11 ladies, of whom two took an individual medal and a third was placed in the top 10. Lis Hartel and Jubilee repeated their silver medal of 1952.
The Olympic champion of 1952, Henri St-Cyr, repeated his victory four years later, this time riding the 14-year-old thoroughbred gelding Juli. Team gold went to the same three riders who had already won in 1952 (and had been in 1948 disqualified after winning).
The judging was an issue of much criticism. Both the Swedish and the German judges saw their riders as 1st, 2nd and 3rd. This time there were consequences. Although it was argued by some that with no common international conception of Dressage, each judge tended to favour the style and method of his country, both the FEI and the IOC took action. The judges from the Federal Republic of Germany and Sweden, both generals, were suspended by the FEI. The IOC threatened to take Dressage out of the Olympics. Only after long negotiations it was agreed that there would be no team competition in Rome in 1960; only two individual riders per country were allowed and three judges had to be from non-participating countries. All rides were filmed and their performances were reviewed during one entire day before the result were publicly announced.
Incidents at obstacle 22 overshadowed the Eventing competition. The fence, a trakehner ditch, 2.50m in width and 1m in height with rails in the centre and sloping sides, caused 28 refusals, 12 falls and one horse fatality.