I have selected the five riders who in my opinion are the greatest at each of the three equestrian disciplines that are included in Olympic competition. That is to say show-jumping, three-day event and dressage.
Show-jumping and three-day eventing have been much harder disciplines in which to exert any long periods of domination. This is largely due to the nature of the events with the physical demands on both horses and rider meaning that a top competitor generally has less time at the highest level. In contrast dressage has seen some competitors stay at the peak of the sport for many years. The different nature of the three disciplines means that I won’t try to compare the riders across the sports.
These are my choices with my number one listed first:
Rodrigo Pessoa (Brazil) – the world champion of 1998 and the Olympic gold medallist of 2004. He was the dominant rider in show-jumping at the turn of the century winning the World Cup final each yer from 1998 to 2000. He has won seventy Grand Prix events in his career and four Pan-American Games medals.
Hans Günter Winkler (Germany/West Germany) – the only show-jumper to win five Olympic gold medals although only one was the individual gold. He is the only equestrian to win medals in six Games. He was the world individual champion in 1954 and 1955 and became Olympic champion in 1956. He added the European title in 1957 and in later years won four more individual medals. He won team golds four times between 1956 and 1972.
Ludger Beerbaum (Germany) – the winner of four Olympic gold medals between 1988 and 2000 and the individual champion of 1992. He was also part of two world and three European champion teams. He won two individual European titles and one World Cup final.
Pierre Jonquères d’Oriola (France) – the only show-jumper to have won two Olympic individual gold medals, which he did in 1952 and 1964. He was world individual champion in 1966 and won two other world medals and an European silver. He won over 300 events in his career.
David Broome (Great Britain) – world individual champion in 1970 and three times European individual champion between 1961 and 1969. He won the King George V Cup a record six times riding six different horses over a thirty year interval. He won world and European golds and two Olympic medals in team competitions.
Mark Todd (New Zealand) – The winner of the individual title at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and more than twenty international events including four Badminton and five Burghley titles. He also won a silver at the 1998 world championships and bronze in the 2000 Olympics at individual events. In team events he won two world titles and two Olympic medals. He was voted the rider of the 20th century by the Federation of Equestrian Sports.
Blyth Tait (New Zealand) – The individual world champion of 1990 and 1998 and Olympic champion in 1996. He was also part of two world championship winning teams. He won Burghley twice and Kentucky. The leading rider in the world for much of the 1990s where he also won Olympic bronze in 1992.
Lucinda Green (Great Britain) – the individual world champion of 1982 and twice European Champion in 1975 and 1977. Her individual triumphs include a record six wins on six different horses at Badminton and two wins at Burghley. In team events she won a world and three European titles.
Bruce Davidson (USA) – twice winner of the world individual title and the winner of the Kentucky event a record six times. He also won the Olympic gold in the team event twice and the individual Pan-American title.
Michael Jung (Germany) – the first person to simultaneously hold the individual titles for eventing at Olympic, World and European level. He won the wold title in 2010, Olympics in 2012 and European in 2011 and 2013. In 2014 he won the silver medal at the world championships. He has won team golds at the Olympics in 2012, worlds in 2014 and twice at the Europeans.
Anky van Grunsven (Netherlands) – the only rider in any equestrian event to win gold medals in an individual at three successive Olympics. She did this in 2000,2004 and 2008 to add to her silver in 1996. She has also won five team medals to give her the record for most Olympic medals by any equestrian. At world championships she has won two golds in freestyle dressage and has three individual European golds. She has won the World Cup a record nine times.
Reiner Klimke (Germany) – the winner of six Olympic gold medals and the indvidual champion of 1964. At the world championships he was twice individual champion and won four team golds and in the European championships was three times individual champion.
Isabell Werth (Germany) – the 1996 Olympic individual champion and winner of four more golds in the team event. She has won three individual golds at the world championships and four team golds and five individual European gold medals.
Christine Stuckelberger (Switzerland) – the individual dressage champion at the 1976 Olympics and 1978 world championships. She also won four more Olympic medals and six world medals. In European championships, effectively a world championships as all the top competitors are European, she was twice individual champion.
Nicole Uphoff (Germany) – the Olympic individual champion in 1988 and 1992 and team gold winner in both Olympics. She was world champion in 1990 and twice world team gold winner. She won two individual golds at European championships.