Equestrian is unique for multiple reasons. Not only is it the only Olympic event that involves horses, it also is the only one in which men and women do not compete separately. They are all equals here and compete against each other. It's also about a partnership between riders and their horses who have trained together for years.
Equestrian events involve three distinct disciplines: dressage, eventing and jumping.
Dressage is artistic. It involves the rider making the horse move by way of subtle commands. There is a compulsory round in which all the moves are prearranged. Then there is freestyle round in which the rider and horse perform to music. If done well, it can look like the horse is moving and dancing to the music.
Jumping is the form of equestrian most casual fans likely think about. The rider and horse are timed over a course in which the horses have to jump obstacles which can include parallel rails, triple bars, water jumps and simulated stone walls. Time penalties may be assessed if the horse and rider don't clear the obstacle or if they skip it. The horse and rider who get through the course the fastest and with the fewest penalties wins.
Eventing involves three events in this order: dressage, cross-country and jumping. It takes place over several days. Like golf, the object here is to have the lowest score. The cross-country element features horses traveling 20 mph on a course that has multiple, solid obstacles including fences and hedges, as well as water jumps.
Individual and team medals will be awarded in all three equestrian disciplines.