What’s Eventing in the equestrian world?

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Eventing, also known as combined training, is a three-day equestrian competition that tests a horse’s training, skill, and strength in dressage, endurance, and show jumping. It originated from testing military horses and is judged on form and time. The competition is dominated by highly trained horses and riders, with show jumping being the final test.

The three-day event, sometimes referred to as a “horse triathlon,” is a grueling event designed to test a horse’s training, skill and strength, along with the connection between horse and rider. The event is also called “combined training”, because it integrates dressage, endurance and show jumping, three equestrian disciplines that are usually kept separate. A showhorse is a rare and extremely talented athlete with a strong bond and loyalty to its rider.

The roots of eventing lie in the testing of military horses, which were required to possess the highly disciplined traits of a dressage horse, the stamina of a cross country steeplechase and the agility and attention to form required for show jumping. Each stage of a three-day event is called a ‘test’, as it tests the skills of horse and rider, and each test is judged on a time trial. If horse and rider fail to complete a test in time, they are automatically disqualified.

The first day of a three-day event focuses on dressage, an equestrian art form that requires a highly trained, supple horse. During a dressage event, horse and rider move in unison through a series of flowing movements in a ring. To the untrained eye, dressage resembles dance and requires great physical control and grace. The dressage portion of the event gets the horse agile for the next two days, and is judged on overall form, which includes how well the dressage test flows and how well horse and rider are.

The second and most difficult day of the event is endurance/cross country, which begins with roads and trails, a light trot exercise designed to stretch and warm up the horse. The horse proceeds directly to the steeplechase portion of the test, which involves six to eight jumps over a long course, and follows with another round of roads and tracks to cool off. After this point, the horse is checked for soundness by a veterinarian. If the horse is deemed unfit to compete, it is withdrawn. Otherwise, the horse enters the cross country stage, an exhilarating and challenging course through widely varied terrain and over an assortment of obstacles, undertaken at a gallop.

On the third day, the horse is examined again by a veterinary crew before being allowed to participate in the final test, the show jumping. Show jumping is performed in a ring and judged on form. It also tests the horse’s ability and willingness to compete after the first two days of the event. Judges look for horses that move fluidly through the ring, don’t shy away from jumps, and work in harmony with their riders to complete the course.

At the end of an eventing competition, teams of horses and riders are judged using a points system, which takes into account form, along with the time taken to complete each course. As in many equestrian sports, a number of people and horses of all ages and abilities compete in the events, but the field is dominated by a handful of equine superstars who are in peak condition and training. Seeing high performance show horses in action is a rare privilege.

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