The A-M of eventing!

What is eventing?

 Held in either one-day or three-day formats, eventing involves three disciplines; dressage, showjumping and cross country. Scores for each of the disciplines are combined to determine the winner.

Get ready to dive into the dynamic world of eventing with our exciting A-Z series. Welcome to Part 1!

A ➡️ Approach

The way a rider approaches a fence isn’t always simple! There are elements that riders will be looking for such as rhythm and striding, however it doesn’t always go to plan!

There are ways that riders can incur penalties on the approach to a fence which include:

  • Crossing tracks
  • Stepping backwards
  • Refusal at the fence
Blenheim Palace
B ➡️ Blenheim Palace

How could we do ‘B’ and not mention the stunning backdrop to our fabulous horse trials?

Even though it’s in the background of our photos and videos each year, how much do you actually know about the Palace itself?

  •  It is the only non-royal country house in England to be given the title of a Palace.
  •  Building began in 1705 and finished in 1722.
  • It is named after the 1704 Battle of Blenheim
  • Sir Winston Churchill was born here

C ➡️ Course Walking

Have you ever wondered how many times riders walk the course?

  • Have a listen to when we asked 5* event rider  talk us through how he walks the course and why once won’t suffice!
  • From taking in the course and working out an accurate approach to minute markers and distances, there’s a lot that goes into a course walk!
D ➡️ Dressage scoring

How is dressage scored?

Dressage as a discipline within eventing is scored differently to pure dressage, so it can be challenging to understand.

  • Each part of a dressage test is broken down into a movement which is then given a score out of 10 (some movements can be worth double marks).
  • At the end of an eventing dressage test, there are also what’s known as ‘collective’ marks. For eventing under BE rules, there are ten marks available for each of the following collectives – Pace, Impulsion, Submission and Rider. For FEI events there is only one collective, but it is worth double marks – Harmony of athlete and horse!
  • The total score is turned into a percentage, which is then deducted from 100. E.G. a test of 70% will leave the combination on a score of 30 for their dressage phase.
  • As a result, the lower the final mark for dressage, the better in eventing – the opposite to pure dressage where you want the highest percentage.
E ➡️ Elimination

Horse and rider combinations can be eliminated in any of the three eventing phases – dressage, showjumping and cross country!

  • It is reasonably uncommon; however, a combination will be eliminated in dressage if they make an error of course three times within the test.
  •   In showjumping, a pair will be eliminated if the rider falls off, they start their round before the bell or they accumulate more than 24 penalties
  •  To warrant elimination on the cross country course, the combination would have to have three cumulative refusals (only relevant to Novice level and above), have a fall, miss a fence or jump the course in the wrong order.
F ➡️ Flag Rule

Every cross country fence on a course will have red and white flags

  • Horses and riders should pass between the two flags with the red one on their right and the white one on their left.
  • However, when it comes to tricky fences like a corner or skinny fence, judges will need to be watching carefully to see whether the combination should incur penalties
  • According to the FEI (whose rules BPIHT runs under) ‘A horse is considered to have missed a flag when the point of a shoulder fails to pass between the extremities of the obstacle as flagged. The head and neck must pass inside the extremities of the obstacle as flagged. If a flag is dislodged, the hindquarters must jump the height of the solid part of the obstacle’. In this case, the combination would incur 15 penalties.

G ➡️ Gait

Horses have four Gaits – walk trot, canter and gallop.

Each of these gaits have different ‘beats’

  • Walk has four beats – each foot lands on the ground independently
  • Trot has two beats – the legs work together in diagonal pair
  • Canter has three beats – one pair of feet land simultaneously while the other two are independent.
  • Gallop has four beats – even though it is often thought to just be a faster canter, it is an entirely different gait, although you still have a ‘left lead’ and a ‘right lead’.

H ➡️ Hydration

We’ve been speaking to Spillers, sponsors of the Eventer Challenge, about why hydration is so important for horses, particularly in eventing.

  • Adequate hydration is vital for the proper functioning of a horse’s body.
  • Much like humans, horses rely on water for various physiological processes, including digestion, temperature regulation, and nutrient transport.
  • However, unlike humans, horses are not as adept at replenishing lost fluids, making them more susceptible to dehydration, particularly during hot weather or periods of intense exercise.

I ➡️ Inspection

Also known as a ‘trot up’, a horse inspection is carried out in front of a ground jury, including a vet, to make sure that the horse is healthy and ready to compete

  •  In long-format eventing, horses are required to pass a horse inspection before the dressage and before showjumping on the final day.
  •  Horses competing in short-format classes are only required to pass a horse inspection before the first day of dressage.
  • Trot-ups have become quite the fashion statement amongst riders, with many being sponsored and having best dressed rider awards.
J ➡️ Judge

Throughout eventing, Judges play a crucial role in all three disciplnes – dressage, show jumping and cross country

  • For dressage at FEI eventing, there are between two and four judges depending on the level and whether it is a short or long format class.
  • A Showjumping Judge has roles including setting up timing equipment, commentating, writing and operating the bell.
  • In cross country there is a ‘Judge’ at each fence, called a fence judge who reports back to event control on each horse and rider at their fence – whether they clear it or have any issues there

K ➡️ Knockdown

  • In showjumping, if a fence is knocked down the horse and rider combination will incur 4 penalties. Each knockdown adds 4 penalties to their overall score, however if a pair incur more than 24 penalties, they will be eliminated
  • In long format eventing, Showjumping is the last discipline on the final day of competition so those 4 faults can often mean the difference between winning or slipping down the placings very quickly!

L ➡️ Lead Change

  • In dressage, a lead change refers to the moment when a horse switches which front leg leads during a canter or a gallop. In simpler terms, when a horse is cantering, one of its front legs reaches further forward than the other, which is known as the “lead.”
  • This can be a Simple Change , where the horse comes back to trot or walk before changing leg
  • A Flying Change happens in the air but the horse remains in canter. This requires a higher degree of athletic ability and training.

M ➡️ Military history of eventing

Do you know the history of eventing?

  • The FEI explain…Eventing became an Olympic sport at the Stockholm Games in 1912. It was only open to amateur riders who were in the military. The purpose was to test the cavalry on their fitness and suitability. Dressage showcased skills from the parade ground, the jumping phases demonstrated speed and stamina.
  • Today, eventing is open to anyone but certainly continues to test suitability and stamina of both horses and riders. Plus, some riders do still choose to wear military dress like Italian rider Giovanni Ugolotti.