The equestrian sport of three-day eventing is like no other: horses and riders will contest dressage, cross country, and show jumping in one, fun filled competition. Three-day eventing originates from the days of the cavalry and has evolved over the years to become the sport it is now.
Today, three-day eventing, also known as eventing, is an international Olympic sport, however, the sport consists of many levels; one doesn’t have to be an Olympic prospect to participate. Currently, “events” as they are commonly referred to by riders, don’t necessarily take place over three days, but can take place from one to three days. No matter what duration of days the event takes place over, dressage will always be the first phase.
Dressage is similar to watching ballet; horses and riders perform a series of movements in an arena with the goal of making every movement look as graceful as possible in mind. Depending on the prestige and level of the event, there can be anywhere from one to three dressage judges scoring a horse and rider’s test. Each movement that a horse and rider performs is given a score ranging from ‘1’ to ’10’. The points for each movement are recorded on a sheet of paper known to rider’s as their “dressage test.” Once a horse and rider complete all movements, the scores recorded are added up to create a penalty score; the lower the penalty score the better as riders.
At internationally recognized events, cross country will always follow dressage leaving show jumping as the last phase, however, at nationally recognized events, either phase can follow. Cross Country is usually the most exciting phase for eventers; horses and riders are required to jump a course of fences within a certain time. Horses should not stop at any fence and the goal is to come in within the time to avoid having time penalties. The fences will be solid and can often include ditches, banks, waters, and a variety of terrain changes from steep inclines, flat fields, to rolling hills. Cross country requires both horses and riders to have a certain level of fitness and bravery.
For eventers, the final phase, show jumping, can sometimes be more nerve wracking than cross country! In show jumping, horses and riders jump a course of brightly colored fences. Unlike cross country, show jumping fences come down and horses and riders receive four penalty points for each rail knocked down.
After each phase is completed, the riders’ final score is added up to determine placings. If looking for a thrill as a rider or spectator, eventing is the sport to be in!