Austin Equestrian is pleased to continue our mission of providing information to the Greater Austin equestrian community with our latest blog post on the subject of eventing. We hope that you enjoy reading this post, authored by Lisa Marie Bauman of Austin Eventing!
In May, we eventers attended and/or watched our crowning event of the year, The Rolex Kentucky 3-day Event (RK3DE), and we’re probably still talking about it! For roughly five days, we were glued to the news out of Lexington: who passed the jog (and what did they wear), who’s competing from our local area, how does our favorite horse and rider combination look. For eventers, the RK3DE is the can’t-miss event, whether we’re new to the sport and competing at the green-as-grass level or seasoned upper level riders who have been there, done that. For those of you who are unfamiliar with our sport, let me give you a little look into what is called the "equestrian triathlon."
Three-day eventing, or combined training as it is also known, is an equestrian sport in which horse and rider pairs compete in three disciplines: dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. Dressage tests and jump heights/spreads become larger as riders progress through the levels. You may have seen the top level of eventing in the Summer Olympics. The “events”—what we call our horse shows—may take place over three, two, or one days. As you might imagine, a one day event (ODE) is a real test of both horse and rider fitness!
History and Components:
The combination of disciplines in eventing originates with mounted cavalry horses, which had to be obedient to its rider, athletically fit, fast, and agile. An event always begins with a dressage test, which assesses the horse and rider’s harmony as they ride a prescribed test of movements. The team is scored on each movement in the test and must demonstrate accuracy and suppleness to the evaluating judge. Those pairs with the lowest scores at the end of the dressage phase lead the pack going into the next phase, cross-country jumping.
The cross-country jumping phase, typically covering anywhere from 2 to 4 miles of terrain peppered with fixed and solid “natural” obstacles, tests the horse and rider’s speed, endurance, and jumping skills. The pair must be brave and in peak physical condition as they navigate a variety of jumps, including ditches, up- and down-banks, “skinnies” that are not much wider than the horse itself, corners, tables, water complexes, and endless combinations thereof. Scoring is penalty based, with points accrued for exceeding or beating optimum time and jumping errors, such as refusals, run-outs, and falls. Scores from cross country are added to a rider’s dressage score and carry over into the next phase, show jumping.
As the final phase of eventing, show jumping is ultimately a test of the horse’s ability to recover from the challenge of the first two phases, and especially the extreme test of endurance and physical fitness required for cross country. Show jumping requires the rider to successfully navigate a course of jumps, including combinations and oxers, within an arena, requiring adjustability of stride, maneuverability through turns, speed, and precision. Points are accrued for time faults, dropped rails, and refusals or run outs. As in cross country, the horse and rider pair with the lowest score wins the event.
A Partnership between Horse & Rider:
Eventing is undoubtedly the triathlon of equestrian sports, and you might say that the cross-country phase is like motocross on horseback. Event riders and horses are athletes, through and through. But more importantly, eventers and their horses are partners. You will often hear us speak of our “partnership”—there is nothing more important to us than the bond we forge with our mount. Through water and brush, over logs and ditches, up and down banks and varied terrain we work in concert to make it to the finish line together. Each obstacle tests our commitment and strengthens our bond.
For more information about eventing and local events, visit area5eventing.com, representing Texas eventers, or the US Eventing Association, at useventing.com.