Rules and scoring of a British Eventing Horse Trial
Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter News feed Contact us

Basket is empty

Quick Links» Event Calendar
» News
» Hotline
» My Details
» Find a BE Coach
» Find a Course Builder
» BE Life Magazine
» Rule Book
» Safety
» My Event Diary
» Downloads

The Rules of Each Event Phase and How They are Scored


Ben Hobday adhering to the rules in a British Horse EventWhat is Eventing?

Eventing, with its roots deep in Cavalry exercises performed by the military, is an equestrian triathalon, with Dressage, Show Jumping and Cross Country jumping. These three different disciplines are either all performed on one day (One Day Event, ODE) or over three days (Three Day Event, 3DE). There are also a few two day events. The sport of eventing is also known as 'Horse Trials'.



Ingrid Klimke and her horse scoring high in the Dressage phasePhase 1 - Dressage

The dressage phase, which is held first is made up of an exact sequence of movements, each movement marked out of a maximum score of 10. It is ridden in a semi-enclosed grass arena, which is 20 x 40 for a national ODE, larger (20 x 60m) for an international event.

In an ODE, the test is marked by a judge situated at the top, in the middle of the ‘short side' (20m), at marker ‘C'. More than one judge marks an international test, and they are situated at varying points of the arena.
The judges are looking for balance, rhythm and suppleness and most importantly, obedience of the horse and like to see it working as one with its rider. The reason for the Dressage test is to demonstrate that the horse and rider have the correct training to perform individual movements in a graceful, controlled, relaxed and precise manner and are prepared for the of the exactness of the Show Jumping and rigours of the Cross Country test to follow.

Once the rider and horse have completed their Dressage test, the marks are totted up and any errors of course deducted, which is then converted to penalty points. The marks are converted to a percentage of the maximum possible score, multiplied by the coefficient for that test, then subtracted from 100.

Summary of British Eventing Dressage Rules:

Following the bell the rider is allowed 45 seconds to enter the ring. Failure to do so ends in elimination.
If all four feet of the horse exit the arena during the test, this results in elimination.

Errors on course: 

  • 1st Error = minus 2 marks
  • 2nd Error = minus 4 marks
  • 3rd Error = elimination 

SCohenSJ-Blair in 2008 following the rules of showjumpingPhase 2* – Show Jumping

Show Jumping tests the technical jumping skills of the horse and rider, including suppleness, obedience, fitness and athleticism. In this phase, 8-20 fences (depending on level of event) are set up in an arena, (usually on grass in Britain). Show jumps can be knocked down, unlike cross country fences and penalties are given for any poles that fall. This phase is also timed, with penalties being given for every second over the time set by the course designer. In an international or 3DE, Eventing Show Jumping tests the fitness and stamina of the horse and rider following the previous day's cross-country test.

How do you score a Show Jump round?

If a horse knocks down or refuses a fence, it is called a ‘fault'. These faults are added up at the end of the round, and any time penalties added to give the pairing a score for that round.

  • Knocking down an obstacle: 4 penalties
  • First Disobedience (refusal, run-out, circle, stepping backwards): 4 penalties
  • Second disobedience: 8 penalties 
    Third disobedience; Elimination
  • First Fall of rider: 8 penalties
    Second Fall of rider: Elimination 
    More than 24 jumping penalties: Compulsory Retirement
  • 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

A show jump is classed as being knocked down if any part of it has had its height lowered. It is possible therefore to knock out a pole below the top rail and receive no penalties.

*ODE only. At an international or 3DE it is reversed and SJ is the final phase


Dani Evans Uchin BE collecting points in the cross country phasePhase 3* – Cross Country

Both horse and rider must be in excellent physical shape to complete the cross country test. The horse and rider will have practiced or ‘schooled' over several different types of cross country fences before competing to develop braveness, experience and trust.

In Britain there are six levels of affiliated Eventing which cater for all levels of horse and rider, and they range from 80cm Training classes through to 1.20m Advanced classes:

  • BE80(T)
  • BE90
  • BE100
  • Novice
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Combinations jump 18-22 fences (BE80, BE90, BE100), more at the higher levels, all designed and built along an outdoor circuit. The fences are solidly built natural objects (logs, stone walls) as well as various other obstacles such as ditches, drop fences and banks and combinations, which test the accuracy and training of the horse and rider.

Leading the way on safety in the sport, Britain pioneered the frangible pin system which is fixed to upright rails, allowing part or all of the jump to drop down if hit with enough force.

Horse and rider need to finish the course within a certain time limit, or ‘optimum time' which is announced on the day of the competition for that particular course. For example at a BE80(T) competition, horse and rider need to be travelling at 435 metres per minute, to come within the optimum time. Speed is 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 clocks up time penalties for each second over.

How do you score a Cross Country round?

  • If the rider falls off (national competitions only), they can remount and carry on. If they fall a second time, the rider is eliminated.
  • Refusal, run-out, or circle at an obstacle: 20 penalties
  • Second refusal, run-out, circle at the same obstacle: 40 penalties
  • Third refusal, run-out, circle on XC Course: Elimination
  • Fall of horse (shoulder touches the ground): Mandatory Retirement
  • Exceeding Optimum Time: 0.4 penalties per second
  • Coming in under Optimum Time: 0.4 penalties per second
  • Exceeding the Time Limit (twice the optimum time): Elimination

**Cross Country ODE only. At an international or 3DE it is reversed and Cross Country is the second phase.


British Eventing – the quality standard

British Eventing is the gateway to the sport in Britain and is accessible to you as a rider. With over 190 affiliated events that run every year throughout the season, which runs from March to October, you will find competitions within your locality. See In your Region or Event Calendar for more details.

All events are organised and run by dedicated teams of professionals who are affiliated to British Eventing (BE). All competitions with the BE brand are run to our exacting rules and guidelines, and as a competitor you will be assured of the chance to compete at courses and venues that are of the highest standard and that adhere to British Eventing's health and safety guidelines for both horse and rider.