Eventing began to grow popular in the late 1800’s. Eventing competition that resembles the current three-day were first held in 1902, at the Championnat du Cheval d’Armes in France, but were not introduced into the Olympic Games until 1912.
The Olympic eventing competition was originally open only to male military officers in active duty, mounted only on military charges. In 1924, the event was open to male civilians, although non-commissioned Army officers could not participate in the Olympics until 1956. Women were first allowed to take part in 1964; equestrian sports are one of the few Olympic sports in which men and women compete against one another.
Meet Eventing Pioneer Lana Dupont Wright, she made it possible for all of us to compete against men on the same level.
Lana didn’t start out to make world history when she began riding and foxhunting as a kid. Born July 6th, 1939, Helana Dupont was the daughter of another equestrian pioneer.
Her stable racing colors were Yellow & Gray. I wonder if she influenced the yellow color trend in eventing?
Lana DuPont Wright broke the glass ceiling for women in Eventing all over the world when she became the first woman to compete on a team at the Olympic Games and receive an Olympic medal when the team won silver in Tokyo in 1964. Until that time the prevailing belief was that the sport was simply too demanding for the gentler sex. Lana proved everyone wrong when she and Mr. Wister completed a grueling competition in the rain and mud to stand beside her male teammates on the podium on the final day.
Battling treacherously slick footing and heavy rains, she and her Maryland-bred Mr. Wister (by Occupy) triumphed over the course, despite enduring several falls. In the U.S. Equestrian Team Book of Riding, she describes her first fall and her eventual completion with brutal objectivity: “We fell hard, Wister breaking several bones in his jaw. We were badly disheveled and shaken, but Wister was nonetheless eager to continue. We fell a second time near the end of the course, tripping over another spread. When we finished, we were a collection of bruises, broken bones and mud. Anyway, we proved that a woman could get around an Olympic cross-country course, and nobody could have said that we looked feminine at the finish.” (take from the Equiery)
Lana later had the pleasure and pride of taking another horse from the same lines as Mr. Wister to the World Championships, this time in combined driving. Greystone Sir Rockwell, was a homebred Connemara-cross whose Thoroughbred dam shared bloodlines with Mr. Wister. Rocky, sired by Greystone McErrill eventually became her sentimental favorite after he helped her medal at the World Driving Championships in 1991. “He was my spare, but he was an awesome spare,” remembers Lana. “You know, you are always trying to qualify for something, and although I drove him and had competed him some locally, I had never really done anything with him. You get scared, because at that level you want to use your proven competitors. But I drove him that morning, and he and his pair felt so good, I knew I just had to use him that day in the marathon. And I honestly think he is one of the reasons why we did so well.” Now a 17 year old schoolmaster, Rocky can still be seen at Lana’s Unicorn Farm in Chesapeake City, or hacking about Fair Hill.
Meanwhile, Lana’s involvement with endurance riding (now an FEI recognized discipline) grew just as naturally and organically as her involvement with the other disciplines. Her first endurance-type of ride was in 1957, a three day 100 mile competitive trail ride in Vermont on one of her mother’s horses. She says she did her first “real” endurance event in the early ’90s aboard the Connemara stallion Thor Greystone, “We completed a 100 hours in 22 hours – and that obviously was not a good enough time to be serious. Besides Connemaras aren’t meant to do that job; they have another job.” So, Lana got an Arab and got competitive! “There is a lot of training for endurance, but it is much more relaxed; I really enjoy it. Endurance doesn’t have the same technical strain as does training for dressage. You don’t have to be so technically perfect to do well.” (taken from The Equiery)
Not only was Lana a woman of talent, steely determination and grit, she also was a visionary. She was one of the founding members of the United States Combined Training Association (now USEA) and gave so much back to the grassroots of the sport by holding the Middletown Pony Club Horse Trials at her Unicorn Farm in Delaware and continues to support the local Pony Club to this day.
Today you may catch a glimpse of Lana at her farm in Cheseapeake City, MD- Unicorn Farm. They host regular cross country schoolings in March and an unrecognized event in April & in the Fall.
I think all of us thank you Lana for loving horses so much and challenging yourself of what you can do with a horse! You are inspiring, even if you don’t intend to be.