RICHARD ORD: Giving the pommel horse a pummelling

While you may still be basking in the warm glow of Team GB's Olympic glory there is still one question left unanswered: What's the Pommel Horse all about?

Wednesday, 31st August 2016, 12:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st August 2016, 1:16 pm
Max Whitlock

Most other sporting disciplines in the Olympics you can relate to at some basic level. Running, jumping, throwing, swimming… they all make some sort of sense in the real world. The pommel horse does not.

Don’t get me wrong, I was up with everyone else applauding Max Whitlock for clinching the gold medal with his gymnastic flair, but with so many other sports desperately trying to get included on the Olympic Games programme how does the pommel horse survive?

The poor blighters from the squash community must be pulling their hair out in frustration trying to get accepted into the Olympics. There are squash clubs in every town and city in the country with thousands playing every week. Where’s your nearest pommel horse club?

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It’s rarely discussed, but the pommel horse is meant to be an artificial horse. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it looks nothing like a horse. For one, it’s got no head.

I read up on the pommel horse. It was originally used centuries ago to help cavalrymen perfect mounting and dismounting from a horse.

I ask you: Have you ever seen anyone get on horse like a pommel horse gymnast?

If anything, the pommel horse gymnast has turned getting onto a horse into the intricate art of NOT getting on a horse.

At no point in any pommel horse routine does the gymnast ever touch his backside on the apparatus. They do handstands, walk across its back with their hands, and bounce their legs from side to side, but never do they do what they are meant to be doing and actually sit on the damn thing.

Giving the pommel horse a run for its money in the ‘Is That Really A Sport?’ stakes is dressage.

At least in this instance a real horse is used, but in a very unreal manner.

Some consider dressage to be a kind of horse dancing. To me, it’s the equine equivalent of the Ministry of Silly Walks.

I’ve no doubt all that clip clopping to order takes a great deal of skill, but as far as I can see it’s the horse that does all the work.

If I was in charge of the Olympics, I’d insist that the medals were placed over the horse’s head not the rider’s. Judging by their fancy footwork, the horses would have no problem negotiating the steps up onto the Olympic podium. I am not, however, pushing to have our horse riding teams and pommel horse performers removed from the Tokyo games in 2020.

But to get sports like squash into the Olympics, surely it makes sense to combine dressage and the pommel horse into one sport.

The horse still gets to do its dressage dance, but the rider must also perform a pommel horse routine as it rides around the course.

Now that would be a gold medal of true distinction.