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Either of two distinct sporting events: (1) a horse race over a closed course with obstacles, including hedges and walls; or (2) a footrace of 3,000 m over hurdles and a water jump. The name derives from impromptu races by fox hunters in 18th-century Ireland over natural country in which church steeples served as course landmarks. Equestrian steeplechase is popular in England, France, and Ireland, and to a lesser extent in the U.S. The most famous equestrian steeplechase is the Grand National. Track-and-field steeplechase dates back to a cross-country race at the University of Oxford in 1850. The course and distance were standardized at the 1920 Olympic Games.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on steeplechase, visit Britannica.com.