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Olympic equestrian preview

The three-pronged competition -- one of four sports in the Summer Games where men compete against women -- has been part of the Olympics in its current form since 1912. Dressage is a judge-based discipline where a rider and horse perform a series of predetermined movements with scores counting for both the individual and team events. Jumping is the event probably the most familiar to Americans, one in which horses are timed going through a course of obstacles including water jumps, elevated bars and stone walls. Eventing is an all-around test consisting of dressage, cross-country (navigating a course with up to 45 jumps) and jumping. Sweden was the early power in equestrian, but Germany has taken the reins in recent years.

SPORTS EXPLAINERS: EQUESTRIAN

The U.S., however, is the only nation to win equestrian medals at each of the last seven Olympics other than Germany (and West Germany).

Zara Phillips, U.K.: Phillips, 31, isn't necessarily an individual medal contender -- though the British team is expected to vie for medals -- but she is well-known for her genes. Phillips is the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth. She'll be part of the British eventing squad, which won bronze in Beijing, and riding High Kingdom. She won world titles in 2006 with her previous horse, Toytown, and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

The U.S. was second only to Germany in medals in Beijing, winning one gold, one silver and one bronze. Individual bronze medalist Beezie Madden, also a part of the gold-medal winning jumping team, returns for her third Olympics at age 48, but she will be riding a new horse, Coral Reef Via Volo, after her 2004 and 2008 Olympic teammate, Authentic, retired. Same goes for McLain Ward, also a part of the Athens and Beijing champion show jumping team, who is off Sapphire and on Antares F and recovered from a broken left patella in January. They'll be joined by 52-year-old Rich Fellers and Reed Kessler, who turns 18 on July 9, as they attempt to become the third nation to win three straight team jumping titles. The U.S. also has medal contenders in eventing (world No. 3 Boyd Martin and No. 4 Phillip Dutton).

Laura Bechtolsheimer and Alf (Great Britain) vs. Matthias Rath and Totilas (Germany)

Bechtolsheimer, Rath's ex-girlfriend, rides Alf, named after the 1980s TV alien and ranked third in the world. The German, ranked No. 2, reportedly recently contracted glandular fever -- the rider, not the horse. Another German in the mix is Isabell Werth, who owns eight Olympic medals (five gold, three silver).

Clayton Fredericks and Bendigo (Australia) vs. Lucinda Fredericks and Flying Finish (Australia)

This husband and wife pair helped Australia's eventing team to silver in Beijing, but they also compete separately in the individual event. Clayton got the better of Lucinda in 2008 -- seventh place to 26th -- and it may be the same in London. Clayton is ranked 10th, while Lucinda, born in Malawi, raised in Germany and formerly a British citizen, is 22nd.

Remember the name Hiroshi Hoketsu. He's 71 years old and qualified for the dressage competition, making him the oldest Olympian for the second straight Olympics. Hoketsu was born during World War II, made his Olympic debut in 1964 but is competing in just his third Games. He is not, however, the oldest Olympian ever. That distinction belongs to Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, a silver medalist in the 1920 Games at age 72.

Ann Romney, wife of Mitt Romney, has a horse entered on the U.S. team. Romney co-owns Rafalca, which will be ridden by Jan Ebeling in dressage. ... Horses are drug tested, and veterinarians may also inspect the horses during the Games. ... Bruce Springsteen's daughter, Jessica, made the U.S. Olympic long list in jumping but did not survive the cut. She's a contender for 2016. ... The U.S. Equestrian Federation overnighted its eventing horses on a FedEx flight in June, according to The Associated Press. ... The 2008 Olympic equestrian competition was held in Hong Kong, where the riders watched the Beijing opening ceremony on big screens from 1,200 miles away.

July 31: Individual Eventing, Team Eventing

Aug. 6: Team Jumping

Aug. 7: Team Dressage

Aug. 8: Individual Jumping

Aug. 9: Individual Dressage

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