The exhilarating sport of eventing is considered by many to be the most complete test of a horse, as it incorporates the three disciplines of dressage, cross-country and showjumping on three consecutive days. The three-day event was designed originally as a trial for military chargers, were that it should be fit to cover long distances at a good average speed and to travel over open country, being bold enough to negotiate any obstacles in its path.
The dressage comprises a set program of about 20 different movements of medium difficulty, to be performed at the walk, trot or canter. Marks are awarded by a panel of three judges, who assess fluency and accuracy of the performance, the balance, impulsion, rhythm and suppleness of the horse, as well as the rider’s seat and application of the aids.
The cross country (speed and endurance) is a four-phase test consisting over roads and tracks to be ridden at the trot or slow canter, a steeplechase course to be ridden at a gallop and a cross-country course with 20-32 fixed obstacles, to be ridden at a gallop. Penalties are incurred for falls or refusals at the obstacles and for exceeding the maximum time allowed for each phase.
There are five levels within eventing, based on a system of points accumulated in competition: Pre-novice (involving courses generally to introduce young horses to eventing), Novice, Intermediate, Open Intermediate and Advanced (within which there is also a system of one to four stars for different levels). The same horse-and-rider combination must complete all three tests, and the competitor with the lowest number of overall penalties is the winner.