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May 29, 2012

Rights For Women

While it was accepted and common for women to ride in the 1950s (including this winning hunt team from the Meadowbrook Hunter Trials in 1951), the subject of women on the U.S. Equestrian Team was still up for debate. Photo by Freudy Photos.

Aug. 17, 1951

The Chronicle reports on the debate over women riding in the show jumping at the Olympic Games.

Urgent representations that American women be permitted to ride in the Prix des Nations contest of the 1952 Olympics at Helsinki are being pressed by the U.S. Equestrian Team, Inc., Whitney Stone, Chairman of the Team’s Executive Committee, declared here today.

“Although we expect no ruling until November from the Fédération Equestre Internationale, the international governing body with headquarters in Nice, France,” said Mr. Stone, “we shall proceed on the assumption that our petition will be granted.”

The U.S. Equestrian Team, Inc., a non-profit civilian organization, is the official agent of the U.S. Olympic Committee to select and prepare horses and amateur riders and to nominate a team to represent the United States in the equestrian event of the 1952 Olympic Games.

“The United States has a number of excellent woman riders qualified to try out for the Prix des Nations’ team,” Mr. Stone declared. “The event has been restricted to male riders in the past on the theory that the severity of the course made it too dangerous for women, who were allowed to compete in the dressage contest only.”

“Faced with an immediate decision, and in fairness to the successful male riders in this country, the U.S. Equestrian Team will continue to plan its selections without regard to sex. It is expected that during September and early October at the final trials held at Fort Riley, Kansas, several women will be competing for places on the Prix des Nations team. Prior to that time they will have made their way through ten zonal competitions.

“Should the decision of the FEI prove adverse, of course it will be necessary to substitute next-in-line male riders, but we sincerely hope that will not be the case.”

In addition to the Prix des Nations, world interest also centers on the grueling Three-Day Event which consists of separate tests on successive days. On the first day is the dressage test to show obedience, balance, suppleness and perfect lightness of the horse, together with the regularity, straightness and extension of his gaits. On the second day comes the durance, speed and cross country test. The jumping test is on the third day. The American petition on behalf of women riders did not include their participation in this event.

This article was first published on Aug. 17, 1951, in The Chronicle. It's part of a series celebrating 75 years of Chronicle history.