Horse Eventing

Eventing is a great sport for riders who are interested in variety. The combined eventsdressage, cross-country riding, and show jumpingare sometimes known as the triathlon of equestrian sports.

Although the dressage and show jumping portions have rules similar to those of the individual sports, they are less rigorous in eventing; the focus is more on the endurance aspect of the cross-country portion of the sport. The cross-country portion consists of four phases:

  • The Roads and Tracks Phase is the warm-up portion. In this phase, the horse and rider walk and trot a distance of about 3.5 miles.
  • The Steeplechase Phase includes a little over two miles at full gallop, with jumps over eight or so fences.
  • The Second Roads and Tracks Phase is essentially a seven-mile cool down before the final phase.
  • The Cross-Country Gallop can vary from 2.5 to 5 miles, and involves jumps over many obstacles (up to 45!) that are up to four feet high.

Eventing is regulated by the rules of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). The FEI defines several classes, including the Novice Class. Novices participate only in the cross-country phase over a route that is about 1.5 miles in length and involves approximately 15 obstacles with a maximum height of 2 feet 11 inches.

The Cross Country portion of eventing is typically held on the second day of a three-day contest. Dressage events are usually held on the first day, and show jumping on the third day. The horse is subjected to a veterinary inspection prior to the jumping event to demonstrate a good recovery from the rigors of the Cross Country ride. Horses judged to be physiologically depleted, unsound or injured are eliminated from further competition.

Scoring is based on points accumulated from faults, such as balking at a jump, knocking off a fence rail or tipping an obstacle. The rider with the lowest point score wins. Missing a jump, doing jumps out of order or in the wrong direction and taking more than one fall are examples of faults that result in elimination.

Apparel and Tack for Eventing

Rider: A rider who is serious about the sport of eventing should check the FEI rules for the dressage and jumping phases. At the novice level and at local shows, the basics include a safety helmet or hat, breeches, riding boots, shirt or blouse, gloves and riding jacket. At the advanced level, formal riding wear that includes a dark tailcoat, white breeches, white gloves and spurs. A top hat is usually expected. Few clothing requirements exist for cross-country events, although riders are required to wear safety helmets and protective vests.

Horse: Leg protection is essential for the jumping phase. You should also consider protective boots for the hooves and a breastplate to prevent the saddle from slipping on a jump. Some riders also use a cushioned saddle pad to absorb the impact of the rider on the horse”s back when landing from a jump. If you can only choose one saddle, a good all-purpose saddle is recommended, as it will serve well in all three phases.

Dressage usually has the most requirements in the area of tack and turnout. The saddle chosen should be the type that allows the rider to sit securely in the lowest part, very close to the horse”s back. Special dressage saddles are designed to accomplish this. The flaps are also designed to accommodate the dressage rider”s “straight” leg. The bridle, reins, and bits should be as simple as possible, with all leather and metal polished to a high gleam. A simple snaffle bridle is recommended for competition, except at the advanced levels where double bridles are used (four reins, two bits).

Grooming for Eventing Competitions

Dressage and jumping are riding sports in which the appearance of the horse makes a substantial difference. In the jumping arena, judges and spectators observe grace and elegance in the horse”s movement. The same is true during dressage. A rider whose horse has a long graceful neck, perfect grooming, and an overall look of pride is most likely to appear professional and prepared.

If your horse”s neck is not long and graceful, avoid braiding the mane. Most professionals agree, though, that braiding is something you should learn to do well. The tail must not appear bushy and fluffy, rather symmetric and elegant. The end of the tail should be trimmed so the hair ends are even; if the tail is too long, the horse will look like he”s dragging, but if it”s too short, your horse will have that dreaded “high water” look (teen talk for, “Your trousers are too short.”).

The Eventing Horse

Sometime he trots, as if he told the steps,With gentle majesty and modest pride;Anon he rears upright, curvets and leaps,As who should say ”Lo, thus my strength is tried,And this I do to captivate the eyeOf the fair breeder that is standing by.William Shakespeare (Venus and Adonis)

Equestrians who seek the perfect horse for eventing may find the task of selecting a horse quite daunting. After all, if you want all the prime qualities of a dressage horse, the courage and grace of a jumping horse, and the stamina, speed, and agility required for the cross-country portion of eventing, you will no doubt have to compromise. Remember that most emphasis is placed on the endurance portion; horses who lack speed and stamina are likely to be eliminated from competition for excessive exertion.

Almost any horse can learn all the skills and movements required for participation in eventing sports. A horse must, above all, be obedient and responsive to the rider. If your horse is a bit lacking in this area, it”s not too late to start proper training. No matter what equestrian sport you choose, training for obedience is an ideal starting point.

Some horses are unlikely candidates for the advanced levels of eventing. For instance, any physiological flaws (healed bone breaks, weakness in the legs, a tendency to have respiratory difficulties) or conformation defects are likely to hinder his development as a good endurance horse. Horses who have a fear of water will be at an impossible disadvantage in eventing. At the novice levels, some jumps require a leap over water, and at the advanced levels, the horse must jump into water. A high-strung horse may appear eager to race and lead the pack, but will be less valued in the dressage or show jumping arena.

If you wish to excel at eventing, remember that you”re expecting your horse to perform well in three areas of skill (in some cases, all on the same day!) and that you will have to split training time among these three disciplines. The services of a professional trainer may be critical to your success.

Eventing Competition

Eventing has been an Olympic sport for many years. The Olympic sport began in 1912 as a military interest in which horses had to look their best in the parade square, respond well in battle, and demonstrate great flexibility and agility at a full gallop. By 1924, the competition was opened to non-military participants. In 1964, women were also invited to compete. To this day, Eventing remains the only high-risk Olympic event in which women and men compete as equals. Women, by the way, have enjoyed great success in the sport and have earned their share of medals.

Olympic eventing is governed by the rules and regulations of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI).

National-level and international events apply the FEI rules. Since the FEI recognizes a number of competition classes, they have specifications for novice competitors as well as advanced riders and horses. Equestrians who wish to compete in eventing should be familiar with these rules.

If you”re searching for information on competitions that include eventing, try searching on the terms “Three Day Eventing” and “Combined Trials.” In the U.S., eventing competitions are often called “Horse Trials.” Internet searches on the individual sports of Dressage, Show Jumping, Hunter Trials, and Endurance or Cross-Country Riding also provide schedules of events in many countries.

Eventing competitions at the international level are held all over the world. The FEI”s web site maintains a schedule of events in:

  • Europe, including Great Britain (England and Ireland), Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain
  • North America, including the United States and Canada
  • The Southern hemisphere, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, and New Zealand
  • Asia, including Belarus.