Noble Life

Understanding Eventing


Eventing is the English riding discipline where the same horse and rider pair must complete three very different phases to finish the competition, and where the lowest combined score wins. Traditionally each phase of the competition takes place on a separate day, earning the nick name Three Day Eventing.  The history of the sport is very strongly tied in with the military; originating from the test for the Calvary to prove their mounts were fit for battle.  The sport made it into the Olympics early in the 1900’s, where the format eventually transitioned from long format to short. The long format included 4 phases; with a longer endurance test, but the 4th phase has been abandoned except for some select shows. The current format is only three phases; Dressage, Cross-Country, and Show Jumping.


In the Dressage phase, the challenge is to prove that an extremely fit horse, capable of completing the cross country phase, also has the training and control to perform in a graceful, relaxed and precise pattern.


Dressage is traditionally the first phase of the competition designed to showcase the obedience and elegance of the horse. Horse and rider pairs perform a memorized pattern of movements in front of a judge who scores with penalty points.  Dressage is performed to show discipline, suppleness and athletic ability.  The goal is to earn the lowest penalty score on the Dressage test, which will be the baseline score for the rest of the competition.



The cross-country phase requires a lot of bravery both horse and rider need to be in excellent physical shape to jump the 20 to 40 very solidly built natural obstacles, ponds, and banks.

Cross Country usually takes place on day two of the competition; it is the endurance test. Cross Country is shown across large open fields where the horse and rider must navigate a series of obstacles designed to mimic the natural terrain, such as: jumping logs, crossing water, jumping ditches, and scaling banks.  As the level of competition increases so does the distance of the course, the difficulty of the jumps, and the pace of the horses.  This phase requires horses and riders to be very physically fit. The goal is to finish the course as close to the optimum time as possible, without missing a jump, or stopping at a jump. Penalties will occur if riders skip jumps or have problems at jumps, go too fast, or take too long to finish the course. When a pair completes the cross country without adding any penalties to their score the saying is: “they went clean”.


Eventing is one of the oldest Olympic sports and one of the few where men and women compete against each other.


Show Jumping is the third and final phase of the competition and takes place on day three, to prove the horses can come back from the Cross Country test and complete a challenging agility test. In show jumping the jumps are designed to fall down if the horses touch them, which will add penalty points to their score.  The goal in show jumping is to finish the course as fast as safely possible without knocking down any poles, missing any jumps, or stopping at any jumps. Difficulties lie in the turns the horses must make, the distance between the jumps, and the design of the jumps.

Eventing has increased in popularity worldwide, but the most popular event in the U.S. is the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event CCI****. Rolex takes place every April, in Lexington, Kentucky. It is an internationally ranked event (CCI****), the same level competition as the Olympics. There are only four CIC**** events in the world, they include Rolex, Burghley, Badminton, and Adelaide, in Kentucky, England, England, and Australia respectively. Additionally the Olympics and the World Equestrian Games are both CCI ****, held two years apart, each occurring every four years.

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