Often referred to as an “equestrian triathlon” eventing involves a horse and rider combination competing over three phases : dressage, cross country and showjumping. Originally designed as a military test for a charger, eventing now attracts interest from all ages, experiences and walks of life. The aim of eventing is to complete all three phases with the lowest penalty points.
Dressage : The dressage phase is the first test of the competition. Dressage consists of a set sequence of movements within an arena. The test is judged on rhythm, accuracy, balance and the obedience of the horse to it’s rider. It is often a challenge to entice a horse that is fit enough to gallop cross country to perform a precise and calm test – exactly what is required to be listed at the top of your competitors!
Cross Country : Eventing as a sport is most known for it’s cross country phase. Certainly the most popular with competitors and spectators alike, cross country is the ultimate test of endurance, boldness and trust. Horse and rider must gallop over a mapped course of obstacles (often between 20 and 30), arriving across the finish line within a specific time. These obstacles are immovable and solid, often replicating obstacles one would find in nature (logs, ditches, streams) as well as other man made obstacles (jumping cars is not uncommon in the upper levels!). Undoubtedly the most dangerous element in the sport, it can not be emphasised enough the importance of understanding and trust between horse and rider.
Showjumping : Showjumping is the final stage in the competition, the objective being to jump a set course clear and under time. Unlike cross country, showjumping fences are not solid, and are constructed from rails that a horse can knock down as they jump the fence. Often tired, weary and sore from a long gallop cross country, it is often the fittest horse, and not the flashiest or best jumping horse that will finish on top.
When competing in a large event, these elements are conducted over three days. Horses are required to pass a brief vet analysis or trot up which assesses a horse’s soundness and ultimately their ability to compete. Horses presented to vets are traditionally braided and beautifully presented, while the rider is dressed in formal attire. There are 2 trot ups over the course of a three day event – the first before the dressage and the second after cross country.
Eventing is ever increasing in popularity, in Australia and New Zealand as well as worldwide. Many top international riders have chosen to purchase a New Zealand or Australian Thoroughbred. They are arguably the best mount in the business!