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31 December 2016

2016 was a year of surprises. From weird and wacky videos to Valegro performing on the world stage, here are some of our favourite parts.

1.  The Olympics. Everything about the Olympics. 


Of course, no list about equestrian highlights could be complete without some mention of the Olympics in Rio. Where to start? 


With Valegro and Charlotte making history?


Or maybe with the amazing performance of the Brazilians when the Jumping started?


Or Nick Skelton’s historic first individual after so many years at the top levels of Jumping?


Of course, there’s Michael Jung’s effortless cruise into the gold medal position, retaining not only his individual gold title but on his second choice horse.





To be honest, the Olympics was just a series of incredible moments and this year we had the chance to watch history in the making in so many different ways. 


Before Rio, no British woman had won more than two gold medals, so Charlotte Dujardin was briefly the most successful British Olympic athlete ever (overtaken by cyclist Laura Trott during the games themselves). And that’s on top of the Olympic record she and Valegro set for their freestyle. 


There was a Qatari showjumping team for the first time ever…


…the first Zimbabwean equestrian athlete ever…



…the first South African dressage rider and the first Chilean event rider...who went clear.


Or what about the appearance of Lorenzo, a crowd favourite for sure and a horse who sparked global interest in a sport that previously was strictly the domain of dressage divas? 


Whichever way you look at it, the Rio Olympics weren’t just a win for those who came back with medals. They were a win for equestrian sport as a whole, and for equestrian fans in every corner of the globe.


P.S. While we’re on the topic of Michael Jung, can we just casually remind everyone that this year he also became the first German rider to win Badminton? 2016 certainly hasn’t been the worst year in history for him, then!


2.  Getting Top Athletes to Discover Their Inner Child/Rock Hero


During the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping final in Barcelona this year, we managed to convince the finest Jumping athletes in the world to act like 12 year olds in the name of, well, something, and they took to it like a duck to water.


Handing them a few electric guitars and a drum kit, they rocked out for our photographer to get some truly unique shots of the stars that are unlikely to be repeated…


3. Two legendary horses bowed out of the spotlight.

Of course, Valegro’s mind-blowingly good run had to come to an end at some point, and that point was the very fitting Olympia Horse Show. 


Fans were crowded up against the barriers to watch Charlotte and her trusty mount warm up, and a packed Olympia paid an emotional tribute to a horse which has changed the face of equestrian sports worldwide.


Shine on, Blueberry diamond…the rarest kind of all!



Nino Des Buissonnets is to the Swiss what Valegro is to the British.


Having won gold in London in 2012 along with multiple other titles, including a fourth place in Rio, Nino is without a doubt Steve Guerdat’s best horse, and one of the best horses in the world. Steve officially retired his long time partner from competition on 11 December at the CHI in Geneva.




4.  Billy Goes to Rio


Yes, it was us! 


Our slightly sneaky campaign during the summer that involved a horse called Billy who was struck by lightning and woke up with a fetching lightning bolt on his forehead, and a newfound desire to become an Olympic athlete.  


His adventures went viral on his social media channels with millions of fans following his progress throughout the Rio Olympics, with no clue it was the FEI behind it all.  


We had a lot of fun with Billy, and he is sure to return….. 



The FEI’s #TwoHearts campaign was a roaring success and perfectly sums up the relationship between horse and rider. 

There is nothing more perfect to an equestrian than to feel perfect synchronicity with your horse - regardless of your experience level, type of horse, or your equestrian goals or dreams. 


To date, the hashtag has been used over 90 000 times on Instagram alone. 


Everyone from famous Jumpers through to parents videoing their little girl learning to trot for the first time have thrown their weight behind the meaning of #TwoHearts. 


So a massive "Thank You"  to all of you who have used the hashtags, joined our social media channels, watched and cheered the events and spread the love - you make equestrian sports live and breathe!





2017 will bring more excitement, teamwork, passion, fun and will make dreams a reality with the Finals of the FEI World Cups in Jumping, Driving, Dressage and Vaulting all coming up.  


So from all of us here at the FEI, we wish you a very Happy New Year!



Text by Sophie Baker & Paul Stretton/FEI

Images by Richard Juilliart/FEI