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Eventing, formally called the ‘three day event’, is an all around test of horse and rider and has three distinct phases – dressage, cross-country and showjumping. The sport was developed as a military exercise, with the three phases designed to reflect the training needed for horses in the army.
The three-day eventing competition will actually take place over four days. During the first two days each horse and rider will perform a dressage test in front of a panel of judges. The total score is converted into penalty points, which are carried forward to the next stage of the competition.
They will then move onto the cross-country course which will contain up to 45 jumps. Every horse/rider combination is given penalty points for jumping errors and time penalties, which are added to any penalty points awarded during the dressage test to give a total score.
The competition then ends with show jumping where riders and horses are given penalty points for jumping errors and time penalties, which are added to their penalties from the previous two events. The top 25 riders then jump a final round of show jumping, again added to their cumulative score, to determine the individual result.
The object of dressage, which means “training” in French, is for a rider to work with the horse in harmony to achieve a partnership that is calm, supple, loose, flexible, attentive and keen.
Dressage tests take place in a 60 x 20-metre sand-based arena. In each round, horses have to perform a series of movements. For the first two rounds, the movements are set in compulsory order. For the final freestyle round, the rider chooses an individual programme, to be set to music.
Horse and rider are marked by five judges who look for accuracy of movement, calmness, suppleness and flexibility
The main characteristics of jumping are speed, agility and accuracy of both the rider and the horse. Within an arena riders jump a set number of obstacles in each round of the competition; penalties are incurred for being over the allotted time or having a fence down.
The showjumping takes place around a course of approximately 15 fences. Penalties are awarded if poles are knocked down or if the horse refuses the fence. e. Time faults (one per second) are also awarded if the rider does not complete the course within a set time. The winner is the rider and horse that finishes with the fewest penalties in the fastest time.