- 30 nations (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), Great Britain, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherland, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, Virgin Islands, Yugoslavia)
- 157 entries (66 in Jumping; 43 in Dressage; 48 in Eventing)
- A tradition in place since 1924 according to which the Jumping final was held in the Olympic stadium prior to the closing ceremony had to be dropped, due to organisational constraints, and the whole equestrian programme was held at Santa Anita racetrack.
Jumping (66 riders from 21 nations)
Dressage (43 riders from 18 nations)
Eventing (48 riders from 15 nations)
The US led the way in the equestrian medal count and while they had, from 1980 to 1983, won all FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals and were clearly among the favourites, they won the gold medals with a superiority rarely experienced before or since.
Joe Fargis (USA) and Touch of Class were the first to achieve a double clear in the Olympic team competition.
Fifty-one riders competed in the individual competition on the closing day. Fifteen countries used the full quota of three entries. In addition there were six individuals from as many countries. Only two of the 51 starters were women, but they did extremely well. Heidi Robbiani on Jessica won the bronze medal and Melanie Smith with Calypso tied for seventh. Of the 51 horses only three were mares. Again they did very well: Touch of Class carried Joe Fargis to Olympic gold, Jessica and Heidi Robbiani were third and Overton Amanda with Michael Whitaker had a brilliant first clear round before hitting seven fences the second time around.
The stadium at Santa Anita seating 22,000 was sold out on the three days of the Dressage competitions. Forty-three riders from 18 nations took part in the Grand Prix, 12 with full teams of three. The Federal Republic of Germany again won team gold, but only after a heroic ride by Reiner Klimke on Ahlerich.
Klimke’s 1797 points (71.88%) also saw him heading the individual standings of the Grand Prix, 96 points ahead of Anne-Grethe Jensen on Marzog, winners of the European title the previous year, and 184 ahead of Otto Hofer.
Despite the space at Santa Anita it was not possible to hold the endurance there. After the rejection of other sites, Fairbanks Ranch, a 1,240 acre property located 30km north of San Diego, was chosen.
The Pacific Ocean is only 10km away and it was a stroke of luck that a breeze from the sea materialised just as the first horse started the cross country. The soil at Fairbanks Ranch is fine river sand, with practically no rocks. 50,000 tickets at USD 20 each were sold. The competition began at Santa Anita with two days of Dressage. The United States took an early lead, ahead of Sweden, France, and Great Britain. Individually the Swiss Hansueli Schmutz on Oran, the European champions of 1981 were in the lead, followed by the Americans Bruce Davidson and Karen Stives, and the ultimate winner, Mark Todd on Charisma.
The endurance test at Fairbanks Ranch had the following demands:
A Roads and tracks 4,180 m 19 min
B Steeplechase 3,105 m 4 ½ min, 9 obstacles
C Roads and tracks 11,779 m 53 ½ min
D Cross-country 7,410 m 13 min, 33 obstacles
The seventh obstacle of Neil Ayer’s cross-country course proved the most challenging. Some luck was needed to jump properly from the water on to a walkway and to have the space to jump over a rick into the water again. Hansueli Schmutz, the Dressage leader, lost all hope for gold following a refusal.
After another rest day used to transport the horses back to Santa Anita the Jumping competition saw only one major change to the placings: Karen Stives and Ben Arthur had one knock-down and lost gold to Mark Todd on the 11-year-old Charisma. Virginia Holgate was third on Princess. The USA narrowly won team gold, with 186.00 points against 189.20 for Great Britain. In third place was the Federal Republic of Germany, with four riders all under 30 years of age. Among them was Bettina Overesch, who went on, under her married name of Bettina Hoy, to win many more honours.