“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

So goes the famous quote by the eighteenth-century author Samuel Johnson, and it’s just as true today as when Johnson said it.

The English city that’s on so many people’s bucket lists is a vibrant blend of tradition, pageantry, hipness, and culture. Among its traditions is a deep-rooted equestrian culture–thereby making tickets to the equestrian events at the upcoming 2012 London Olympic Games one of the hottest items on the Olympic roster.

I love London (if you couldn’t tell). I love horses. I’m a longtime rider and horse owner who’s ridden and competed in all three of the Olympic equestrian disciplines: jumping, eventing, and dressage (albeit not quite at those lofty levels). And I love the Olympics.

Yes, they’re crazy commercial (I needed a new credit card to take to London but had to ensure it was a Visa, as all else will be spurned at the Olympic venues in keeping with Visa’s sponsorship stranglehold on commerce). Yes, always some scandal seems to emerge in the wake of an athlete’s blind desire to win at all costs. Yes, in some respects the Olympics are but a bloated shadow of the Olympic ideals of sport and the now-quaint notion of amateur competition.

But four years ago, in Hong Kong for the 2008 Olympic equestrian events, I saw horsemanship at its finest. I saw top riders become misty-eyed as they described their mounts and what their horses had done for them. I saw newly anointed gold medalists cheerfully posing for photos with volunteer cafeteria workers. And I saw people of all nationalities — riders, g