Although equestrian events have been included in the Olympic Games programme since 1912, and have been competed for at the various A. and P. Shows in New Zealand for many years, the sport was not organised nationally until the early 1950s. The New Zealand Horse Society was formed to ensure that local riders were eligible to compete at the 1956 Olympic Games at Melbourne. It represents all equestrian interests in New Zealand including the Royal Agricultural Society, the New Zealand Hunt Clubs Association, the New Zealand Pony Clubs Association, and the Agricultural and Pastoral Societies, as well as separate hunt, light horse, and pony clubs. There are approximately 2,600 private members, and each year over 150 shows are staged by the society's affiliates. Altogether there are nearly 700 equestrian competitions held in New Zealand annually. These include show jumping, dressage, combined training tests, and horse trials. The culminating occasion of the year is the three-day Horse of the Year Show, which usually takes place in February, when riders and horses compete for the society's principal trophies.
One of the original aims of the New Zealand Horse Society was to promote and encourage competitions under international rules. In this connection, the jumping rules of the Fédration Equestre International were introduced at the Wellington meeting in 1950 and have since been widely adopted. The New Zealand Horse Society is an affiliate of the F.E.I., and in 1964 a small equestrian team represented New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics.