Intro to Eventing: What is it?

3 day eventing is a prestigious equestrian sport consisting of three disciplines: Dressage, Show Jumping, and Cross Country. It can be costly but also a fantastic training tool. It teaches both you and your horse about consistency and achieving difficult goals. Not only that but it enlightens your horse on using their body correctly and problem solving things even when they don’t understand, want to give up, and are scared. These three phases teach any horse and rider team to work as one, fluidly and solidly. The basic, beginning levels of eventing go in this order: Beginner Novice, Novice, Preliminary, Intermediate, and then Advanced. Height wise these levels go from 2’7″ (beginner novice) up to 3’11” (advanced) in the jumping portions. They all have their own specific dressage tests to fit the horses level of training exposure.

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Learning how to work with your horse efficiently and sophistically is something that most equestrians strive for. Dressage teaches both horse and rider to work as one. In competition, you have to complete what is called a test. This test has a list of directives that explains what judges are looking for while you complete the given movements. The movements must be completed in a certain order to obtain an exceptional score. A dressage score is based off how well you completed the moments and how well you met the directives given for each movement. Whether it be a transition or a circle, a score from one to ten is given to rate your execution of the maneuver. At the end of the test your score is added up and turned into a percentage. Every show scores differently, but you will either need to score really high or really low. If you’re given a 30.5% then you did very well if that specific show is scoring by the lower the better. Dressage gets more prestigious as you move up levels but so does your connection with your horse.

Show Jumping

The second day or phase of eventing is always show jumping. In either a sand or grass arena is a set of eight to twelve jumps. These jumps are set up in a difficult pattern better known as a course. Show jumping courses are consistent in height but the jumps themselves are typically painted brightly, adding a ‘wow factor’ for not only the horse but the rider as well. Depending on the time of year there are typically festive decorations adorning these jumps too.


When eventing you receive a number. This number is pinned onto the back of your show jacket and is to be called when it’s your turn to ride both your dressage test and show jump round. Before your jumping round you’ll be called as the next person up. This position is more commonly referred to as ‘on deck’. They will call out your number and even your name. When you’re actually in the ring there will be some type of indicator that the clock is ready, such as a bell or a buzzer. When this sound is emitted then the clock is ticking. You have 30 to 45 seconds after the sound to start your course. If your course isn’t started then you get disqualified. But if you do start your course in time, then your time begins when you pass the timer. You need to jump all of your jumps in order and quickly in order to place. But, placing isn’t the main goal of show jumping. The main goal of Phase Two is to show off how well your horse jumps and how responsive they are. All equestrian sports are really only meant to do just that, show off in a fun and competitive environment.

Cross Country

The best way to explain this third and final phase is to call it a single thing: A death wish. You have to battle water obstacles and banks as well as solid jumps. Cross country jumps are made of wood (most of the time) and are very sturdy. They have to be completed in a certain amount of time and in a certain order in order to stay away from elimination. The third phase is the ultimate test for athleticism, stamina, and horse/rider connection. You and your equine partner have to complete this extended series of jumps without error in order to keep up your score. The score that determines your placing at the end of the event is a combination of all three scores that you’ve acquired throughout the day(s). Your dressage score is added to your penalties in both show jumping and cross country. A penalty covers four things: in show jumping it is if your horse has knocked a rail or refused. While in cross country these penalty’s are determined by staying within the time limitations and the amount of refusals you’ve acquired.


Eventing is both physically and mentally demanding for any horse and rider team. You have to battle the precise movements of a dressage test, the colorful jumps of a tight turning show jumping round, and the solid obstacles of a demanding and complicated cross country course. In the end though, eventing brings a better connection between horse and rider as well as exposure to the equine community in your area.


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