The Disciplines of Dressage, Showjumping & Cross Country
Eventing (or sometimes referred to as Horse Trials) originally evolved from the training and selection of cavalry horses.
The Three Disciplines
Each of the three disciplines is designed to test the horses ability - dressage shows how trainable the horse is and its basic paces in walk, trot and canter. The show jumping shows athleticism, control and accuracy while the cross country tests stamina, speed, jumping and bravery. The sport is rather like the pentathlon in that it combines different disciplines in one competition and is run on a cumulative penalty basis. The competitor with least penalties at the end is the winner.
The first test is dressage, which comprises a set sequence of compulsory movements in an arena 20 metres wide and 40 metres long (60 metres at higher levels of competition). The test is judged by one or more judges who are looking for balance, rhythm and suppleness and most importantly, obedience of the horse and its harmony with the rider. Each movement is scored out of ten with the total being added up and converted to a penalty score (and percentage).
The show-jumping phase is one round of jumping with a maximum time allowed and the objective is to jump all the fences clear inside the time. The fences are not as high as top level show-jumping but are quite substantial for horses which are not specialists at show-jumping. Fences knocked down and refusals incur penalties as does exceeding the time allowed.
The third phase is the cross-country where a course of natural obstacles has to be jumped - again inside an optimum time - being over the time incurs penalties and being well under it is of no benefit and unnecessarily tires the horse. Stopping at obstacles or falling off also incurs penalties.
All horses need to build up their levels of skill and the sport has different levels of competition: BE80(T), (where the maxiumum height of fences is 80cm) BE90, BE100, Novice, Intermediate and Advanced. Horses progress as they score points and gain experience. This leads to an interesting feature of the sport which is that all riders compete in Novice classes with the top riders on their young horses competing often against relatively inexperienced rider who can and do beat them! Also men and women compete on equal terms - there are no distinctions or single sex classes.