Eventing (also known as Three Day eventing or Horse Trials) is an equestrian event where a single horse and rider combination compete against other combinations across the three disciplines of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. This event has its roots in a comprehensive cavalry test which required mastery of several types of riding. The competition may be run as a one-day event (ODE), where all three events are completed in one day (dressage, followed by show jumping then the cross country phase) or a three-day event (3DE), which is more commonly now run over four days, with dressage on the first two days followed by cross country the next day and then show jumping in reverse order on the final day. Eventing was previously known as Combined Training, and the name persists in many smaller organisations. The term "Combined Training" is sometimes confused with the term "Combined Test" which refers to a combination of just two of the phases, most commonly dressage and show jumping.
Eventing is an equestrian triathlon, in that it combines three different disciplines in one competition set out over one, two, or three days, depending on the length of courses and number of entries. This sport follows a similar format in Australia, Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom and the United States.
The dressage phase (held first) consists of an exact sequence of movements ridden in an enclosed arena (20×60 m for International 3DE but usually 20×40 m for ODE). The test is judged by one or more judges who are looking for balance, rhythm, suppleness, and most importantly, the cooperation between the horse and rider. The challenge is to demonstrate that a supremely fit horse, capable of completing the cross country phase on time, also has the training to perform in a graceful, relaxed and precise manner. Dressage work is the basis of all the other phases and disciplines within the sport of eventing because it develops the strength and balance that allow a horse to go cross country and show jump competently.
At the highest level of competition, the dressage test is roughly equivalent to the United States Dressage Federation Third Level, and may ask for half-pass at trot, shoulder-in, travers, collected, medium and extended gaits, single flying changes and counter-canter. The tests may not ask for Grand Prix movements such as piaffe or passage.
Each movement in the test is scored on a scale from 0 to 10, with a score of "10" being the highest possible mark and with the total maximum score for the test varying depending on the level of competition and the number of movements. Therefore, if one movement is poorly executed, it is still possible for the rider to get a good overall score if the remaining movements are very well executed. The marks are added together and any errors of course deducted. To convert this score to penalty points, the average marks of all judges are converted to a percentage of the maximum possible score, subtracted from 100 and the multiplied by a co-efficient decided by the governing body. Canadian example: 77 percent becomes 34.5 penalty points or (100 - 77) x 1.5 = 34.5
Once the bell rings the rider is allowed 45 seconds to enter the ring or receive a two-point penalty, then an additional 45 seconds, for a total of 90 seconds, or is eliminated.
If all four feet of the horse exit the arena during the test, this results in elimination.
If the horse resists more than 20 seconds during the test, this results in elimination.
Errors on course:
1st: minus 2 marks
2nd: minus 4 marks
The next phase, cross-country, requires both horse and rider to be in excellent physical shape and to be brave and trusting of each other. This phase consists of approximately 12–20 fences (lower levels), or 30–40 at the higher levels, placed on a long outdoor circuit. These fences consist of very solidly built natural objects (logs, stone walls, etc.) as well as various obstacles such as ponds and streams, ditches, drops and banks, and combinations including several jumping efforts based on objects that would commonly occur in the countryside. Sometimes, particularly at higher levels, fences are designed that would not normally occur in nature. However, these are still designed to be as solid as more natural obstacles. Safety regulations mean that some obstacles are now being built with a "frangible pin system", allowing part or all of the jump to collapse if hit with enough impact. Speed is also a factor, with the rider required to cross the finish line within a certain time frame (optimum time). Crossing the finish line after the optimum time results in penalties for each second over. At lower levels, there is also a speed fault time, where penalties are incurred for horse and rider pairs completing the course too quickly. For every "disobedience" (refusal or run-out of a jump) a horse and rider incur on course, penalties will be added to their dressage score. After four disobediences altogether or three disobediences at one fence the pair is eliminated, meaning they can no longer participate in the competition. A horse and rider pair can also be eliminated for going off course, for example missing a fence. If the horses shoulder and hind-quarter touch the ground, mandatory retirement is taken and they are not allowed to participate further in the competition. If the rider falls off the horse they are eliminated. However, in the US this rule is currently being revised for the Novice level and below. The penalties for disobediences on cross country are weighted severely relative to the other phases of competition to emphasize the importance of courage, endurance and athleticism. Fitness is required as the time allowed will require a strong canter at the lower levels, all the way to a strong gallop at the higher events.
In recent years, a controversy has developed between supporters of short and long format three-day events. Traditionally, three-day events had dressage, endurance, and show jumping. Endurance day consisted of 4 phases: A, B, C and D. Phases A and C were roads and tracks, with A being a medium-paced warm up to prepare the horse and rider for Phase B, a steeplechase format at an extremely fast pace over steeplechase-style fences. Phase C was a slow-paced cool down coming off of phase B, in preparation for the toughest and most demanding phase, D, or cross-country. Before embarking on phase D, in the "ten-minute box", horses had to be approved to continue by a vet, who monitored their temperature and heart rate, ensuring that the horse was sound and fit.
Three day events are now offered in the classic format, with endurance day, or short-format, with no steeplechase (phase B) or roads and tracks (phases A and C). The 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens, Greece chose the short format, due to lack of facilities, time and financing, which sparked a large debate in the eventing community whether to keep the steeplechase phase or just offer cross-country. Today, most events are run short-format. In the United States the "classic format" remains a popular option for the Novice, and Training levels of competition at select events.
In 2008, the rules regarding safety in the sport were changed. One change stated that a fall anywhere during the cross-country phase resulted in elimination, even if the rider was galloping on course and not approaching a jump, or in the middle of a combination.
run-out, or circle:
At the same obstacle:
First: 20 penalties
Second: 40 penalties
20 penalties at each question
In the round (for instance one refusal at each of several different obstacles):
Third (used to be fourth refusal, and still is for lower national levels in some countries only): elimination (E)
Fall of rider: elimination (E)
Fall of horse (shoulder and hind touch the ground): elimination (E)
Exceeding the time:
Optimum: 0.4 penalties per second
Limit (twice the optimum): elimination (E)
Coming in under speed fault time: 1 penalties per second (lower national levels in some countries only)
Competing with improper saddlery: elimination (E)
Jumping without headgear or a properly fastened harness: elimination (E)
Error of course not rectified: elimination (E)
Omission of obstacle: elimination (E)
Jumping an obstacle in the wrong order or direction: elimination (E)
Retaking an obstacle already jumped: elimination (E)
Dangerous riding, at determination of the ground jury: elimination (usually with a warning first) (E)
Failure to wear medical armband: elimination (at discretion of ground jury) (E)
4 refusals on whole course: elimination (E) (only in horse trails. If you are competing in FEI, you get 2 refusals and your third is elimination.)
Types of Obstacles
The "direct route" when jumping cross-country
If the rider has a refusal at the direct route, he may jump the other B element without additional penalty than incurred for the refusal.
A combination is always considered one obstacle, and the various elements within the combination are lettered "A", "B", "C", and so on. In cross-country, the rider need only retake the element they refused rather than the whole complex. So a refusal at element B does not require them to jump A again. However, they have the option of retaking the previous elements if they wish. For example, in a bounce type obstacle it may be physically impossible to approach B without first clearing A. Yet for some in and outs, you can go to B and not have to rejump A.
Many cross-country obstacles have several possible routes to take (for example, at obstacle 5 there may be 2 A, 2 B, and 2 C elements), with one route usually being faster but requiring a more skillful ride or more physical effort from the horse. A rider may take any of the possible routes as long as they pass over each letter once. Additionally, after a refusal, they may jump a different obstacle of the same letter in place of the original.
A refusal at A is a first refusal, and would receive 20 penalties. Whether the rider retakes A or not, a subsequent refusal at B is a second refusal and so on. Three refusals at any one obstacle results in elimination, as does 4 refusals on the entire course.
Veterinary inspection, or "trot up"/"horse inspection"
Before the beginning of a three-day event, and also before the last phase, horses are inspected by a vet to ensure that they are fit to compete further. It is usually a formal affair, with well-groomed and braided horses, and nicely dressed riders. It is also a very nerve-wracking time, as the "pass" or "fail" determines whether the horse may continue with the competition. A vet can request that a horse be sent to the holding box, where it will then be re-assessed before being allowed to continue. In upper level FEI classes, a second veterinarian (often called the Associate FEI Veterinarian) may inspect horses sent to the hold box and make the decision to pass or fail a horse. This practice is in place so that no one veterinarian has complete power to eliminate a horse and allows for a large number of horses to be evaluated in a timely manner.
In lower levels of competition, the horse's movement may be analysed as they finish the cross-country, where they will be asked to trot briefly after crossing the finishing line to satisfy the vet of their soundness.
Ten Minute Box
The "Ten Minute Box" is a compulsory halt included during the cross country section of a three-day event after the roads and tracks and steeplechase phases and before the "pure" cross-country jumping phase. It is a pause designed to allow the horse (and rider!) time to cool off, rest and stabilise its vitals and ensure that it is prepared for the "pure" cross-country phase. In the Ten Minute Box, riders and assistants will cool the horse down, walk the horse around and check tack and studs and a veterinarian will inspect the horse - including checking its heart and respiration rates - to determine if it is fit to compete in the final "pure" cross-country phase.
Stadium or show jumping is the final phase of eventing competition and tests the technical jumping skills of the horse and rider, including suppleness, obedience, fitness and athleticism. In this phase, 12–20 fences are set up in a ring. These fences are typically brightly colored and consist of elements that can be knocked down, unlike cross country obstacles. This phase is also timed, with penalties being given for every second over the required time. In addition to normal jumping skills, eventing show jumping tests the fitness and stamina of the horse and rider, generally being held after the cross-country phase in higher level and international events.
Knocking down an obstacle: 4 penalties
Disobedience (refusal, run-out, circle, moving backwards) over the whole round:
First: 4 penalties
Fall of rider: Elimination
Fall of horse: Elimination
Exceeding the time allowed: 1 penalty per second
Jumping an obstacle in the wrong order: Elimination
Error of course not rectified: Elimination
An obstacle is defined as having been knocked down if any part of its height is lowered. It is therefore possible to knock out a pole below the top pole and receive no penalties, as long as the highest pole stays in place, so that the jump retains the same height. It does count as a knockdown if the highest pole falls out of one jump cup but remains in the other; although part of the pole remains at the original height, the other part is lowered.
The winner is the horse and rider with the fewest penalties. Awards are usually presented while mounted, before the placed riders take a lap of honor around the arena.
See also: Equestrian at the Summer Olympics
Eventing competition that resembles the current three-day were first held in 1902, at the Championnat du Cheval d'Armes in France, and was introduced into the Olympic Games starting 1912 in Stockholm, Sweden. Dressage originally demonstrated the horse's ability to perform on the parade ground, where elegance and obedience were key. Cross-country began as a test of stamina, courage, and bravery over difficult terrain, important for a charger on long marches or if the horse was asked to carry a dispatch across country. The stadium jumping phase sought to prove the horse's continuing soundness and fitness after the difficult cross-country day.
The Olympic eventing competition was originally open only to male military officers in active duty, mounted only on military charges. In 1924, the event was open to male civilians, although non-commissioned Army officers could not participate in the Olympics until 1956. Women were first allowed to take part in 1964; equestrian sports are one of the few Olympic sports in which men and women compete against one another.
The original format, used in the 1912 Olympics, was spread over several days:
Day 1: Endurance test comprising 55 km (34 mi) (with a time allowed of 4 hours, giving a speed of approx. 230 meters per minute) immediately followed by 5 km of a flagged cross-country course at a speed of 333 meters per minute. Time penalties were given for exceeding the time allowed, but no bonus points were given for being fast.
Day 2: Rest day
Day 3: Steeplechase test of 3.5 km with 10 plain obstacles, at a speed of 600 mpm, with time penalties but no time bonus points
Day 4: Jumping test ("prize jumping"), which was considered easy by most of the spectators
Day 5: Dressage test ("prize riding")
The Paris Games in 1924 introduced a format very similar to the one of today: with day 1 dressage, day 2 the endurance test, and day 3 the jumping test. The endurance test has changed the most since that time. Originally, bonus points could be earned for a fast ride cross-country (less than the optimum time). This helped competitors make up for a poor dressage ride, with a clean, fast cross-country ride. This system, however, was dropped in 1971. The format for the endurance test occurred as below:
Phase A: Short roads and tracks (with five penalties per 5 seconds over time)
Phase B: Steeplechase, decreased in speed from 600 mpm to 550 mpm (with 10 penalties added per 5 seconds over the time, 3 bonus points per 5 seconds under time)
Phase C: Long roads and tracks (with 5 penalties per 5 seconds over time)
Compulsory Halt (now the 10-minute halt)
Phase D: Cross-country (with 10 penalties added per 5 seconds over the time, 3 bonus points per 10 seconds under time)
Phase E: 1.25 mile run on the flat (with 5 penalties per 5 seconds over time).
(Note: Phase E was abolished in 1967.)
In 1963, the 10-minute halt was introduced, to occur after the completion of phases A, B, and C. It took place in a marked out area (the 10-minute box), where the horse was checked by two judges and one