A five-minute primer on an issue making headlines Hong Kong's going to host the Olympic equestrian event. That's something to do with prancing horses and posh riders, right? Yes, indeed. Horses with shiny coats and beautifully braided manes, and riders seated with perfect posture and elegant grace in jodhpurs and smart jackets. The word originates from the Latin 'equus', meaning horse and relates to knights. Knights, eh? Don't see many of them at Happy Valley. I guess there'll be no beer in plastic cups or horses thundering down the track with jockeys clinging to their backs? Equestrian sports are about as different from a night at the races as you can get. They both feature our four-legged equine friends but that's where the similarity ends. It would be like comparing rugby to floor gymnastics. Start from the top. What is it? The Olympic equestrian sport includes dressage, jumping and eventing. It also strikes a blow for equality as it's one of the few sports where men and women compete on an equal basis. Dressage? Sounds like a massage with your clothes on. In fact, it comes from the French word for training. This specialised sport represents the highest level of training a horse can achieve. Horses perform 20 movements and are scored on their performance. If you want to get down to the nitty gritty, here goes: gaits and movements performed at Olympic level include collected and extended walk, trot, and canter; trot and canter half-pass (a sideways movement); passage (a slow-motion trot); piaffe (a trot in place); one and two tempi changes (where the horse appears to skip as it changes leads in the canter); canter 'zigzags'; and pirouettes (a 360-degree circle, in place, at the canter). Whoa there, boy! How did anyone ever figure out a horse could zigzag or pirouette? It's not called equine ballet for nothing. Supposedly it was first developed by the ancient Greek cavalry and caught on again in Renaissance Europe among noblemen who wanted to show off their horses' skills. The tradition is carried on today at the Spanish Riding school of Vienna and the French cavalry school at Saumur. Onto horse jumping. That sounds straightforward enough. Here's one after my own Irish heart. The sport originated in Ireland and finds its roots in fox hunting. Horse and rider need to complete a course of about 15 obstacles, including triple bars, parallel rails, water jumps and simulated stone walls. Penalties are incurred if jumps are taken in the wrong order, if a horse refuses a jump or knocks down a rail, and if time limits are exceeded. No messy ripping apart of foxes either. What about eventing? This is the horsy triathlon. It consists of a three-day event which combines dressage and jumping, and adds a third element of cross-country racing with 45 'jumps', some of which are more than a metre high. The cross-country race includes perilous routes over water, ditches and banks, although there is usually an easier but longer route round. The winner is the one that has picked up the least penalty points over the three days. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is planning to build a 6.5km cross-country course at Fanling for this part of the competition. Guess it's not for wimps after all. I hear there will be six gold medals. If there are only three events, how come there are six medals? There are medals awarded for individuals and for teams, so that's double the chances of scoring a bit of bling.