Equestrian is supposed to be all about elegance, poise and politesse.

Not on Wednesday, when the Olympic three-day team event degenerated into an unprecedented free-for-all before Germany finally ended up with the gold.

A fast and furious flurry of back-and-forth medal rulings must have made spectators feel like they were watching table tennis -- and the rival French and German teams as though they were re-fighting the Franco-Prussian War.

First, the judges gave Germany the gold and France the silver, while Britain took bronze.

But then the protesting began.

The French team lodged a complaint, claiming that Bettina Hoy of Germany, riding Ringwood Cockatoo, had crossed the start line twice.

The judges agreed, docking Germany 12 points, dropping it from first place to fourth with 147.8 points in a decision that lifted the United States to third.

As if that wasn't chaotic enough, Germany launched a counter-protest, an appeals committee reversed the judges -- and the Germans reclaimed their gold.

"The jury made a ruling, and we took a lot of time and care in doing so. As is their right, the German team made their appeal. The appeals committee overruled the jury's decision," said Cara Whitham of Canada, a member of the ground jury.

All three nations that were bumped down planned to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, French team coach Olivier Lepage said.

"I've got the authorization of the French Federation and Olympic Committee," Lepage said. "We are going to do it with the American and British Federations. If we are three, it's going to have more weight."

In its second review, the appeals committee restored the original medal order, noting that the clock running during the event on the show jumping course had malfunctioned while Hoy was competing.

"The committee concluded that the countdown had been restarted resulting in a clear injustice to the rider concerned," the committee said in a statement.

Lost in the shuffle was the United States, which for a fleeting moment was the bronze medalist.

The Americans fell out of medal contention when Kim Severson's Winsome Adante rolled the top plank off the last jump in the show jumping phase.

"I knew that I had let the team down," said Severson, of Keene, Va., after her disappointing round.

Earlier, U.S. riders also had dropped rails that added to the team total, including Darren Chiacchia, who added 8 points on Windfall 2 and finished 12th with 52.6.

Amy Tryon had a clean round on Poggio II to finish 11th with 51.8 and Julie Richards had another clean round on Jacob Two Two to finish 23rd with 67.0, but could not improve any more from the penalty points they earned in dressage in the first phase of competition.

In the individual three-day event later Thursday night, Hoy won the gold medal, again aboard Ringwood Cockatoo. Leslie Law of Britain won the silver with Shear l'Eau and Severson won the bronze.

Bettina Hoy, riding Ringwood Cockatoo, survived a protest that she had crossed the starting line twice, and led Germany to gold. John Williams, aboard Carrick, had a bronze medal until an appeals panel reinstated Germany; the United States finished fourth. Mary King, on King Solomon III, shines during show jumping; Britian took bronze.Kim Severson, from Keene, Va., wins bronze in individual three-day event after disappointing team competition.