Eventing, formally called the ‘three day event’, takes place over four days at a major Championship. The senior major Championships cycle over a four-year Olympiad – an Olympic Games, a World Equestrian Games, and European Championships in the two years in between. The youth teams (young rider, junior and pony) compete at European Championships each year.
Eventing is an all around test of horse and rider with three distinct tests, or phases, taking place on separate days, with the competitor riding the same horse throughout. The first two days are the dressage competition, day three is cross-country and day four is jumping. The sport developed as a military exercise, with the three phases designed to reflect the training needed for horses in the army.
Dressage: Each rider executes a predetermined test of movements within a 60m x 20m arena, designed to test harmony between horse and rider. Three judges mark the test from different positions in the arena, giving each movement a mark out of 10; their scores are combined to give the rider a percentage mark which is then converted to penalty points by subtracting from 100 and multiplying by 1.5. For example: a test scoring an average of 70% would give the rider 45 penalty points.
Cross-Country: The speed, endurance, boldness and partnership of horse and rider is tested over a number of solid obstacles across natural terrain. The course will have a defined length; height / width limits and an optimum time depending on the Championship. Penalties are incurred for a refusal or run-out at a jump (20 penalties for the first, 40 for the second, elimination for a third) and for exceeding the optimum time – these are accrued at 0.4 per second. Falls of horse or rider on the course result in elimination.
Showjumping: Horse and rider combinations complete the jumping phase in reverse order of penalties after the dressage and cross-country. Penalties are incurred for knocking down an obstacle (4 pens) or refusing / running out at an obstacle (4 pens). A second refusal or fall of horse or rider will result in elimination.
At an Olympic Games
The eventing competition takes places over four days: the first two days are dressage (half of the field compete on each day), followed by cross-country and then two showjumping rounds on the final day.
Dressage: each horse and rider combination performs a dressage test in front of a panel of 3 judges. The judges’ scores are converted into penalty points, which are carried forward to the next stage of the competition (riders are aiming to achieve as low a dressage penalty score as possible).
Cross-country: in 2012 the course was 5,700m (approx) and contained between 42-45 jumping efforts. Every horse/rider combination will receive penalty points for jumping errors and for exceeding the optimum time; if they are penalised, these points are then added to the penalty points incurred during the dressage test to give a total score.
First showjumping Round: the first round decides the placings of the team event; the winning team is the one with the lowest total number of penalty points, after adding together the scores from the three highest placed athletes in the team. Riders and horses are given penalty points for any jumping errors and time faults, which are added to their carried forward score from the dressage and cross-country rounds.
Second showjumping Round: this round determines the individual placings. The team scores from the previous jumping round determine which riders (the top 25) will go through to this round. The individual winner is the athlete with the lowest penalty score after penalty points incurred from all three phases have been totaled, including results from the first jumping round.
Meet the British Eventing Team