A horse and a rider traveling the country at full gallop, naturally crossing the obstacles which are on their way: an image inspired and strong which, if it appears harmonious and fluid, is the result of the collaboration without defect between the man and his horse.
Originally military, The Eventing developed from the competitions of cavalry organized in the XIXeme century to test endurance, activities, courage and submission of horses of the army. It is at the beginning of the XXeme century that we find, in France, the first proofs that the spirit is similar to our Eventing today.
The Eventing becomes one of the Olympic equestrian disciplines during its first appearance to the Olympic Games of Stocklom in….1912!!
Until the middle of the century, The Eventing is almost exclusively the business of the soldiers; the conquered golden medals, in the Games of London in 1948 and Silver in Helsinki in 1952, by two French officers, give evidence of it.
In the 80's the teachers start to develop the discipline within the clubs and this practice of the equitation, finds finally its public.
France is a great nation of Eventing; at first, by the quality of its breeding of horses, then by the riders which constituted the French Teams in the biggest international competitions. Let us remind that France was Vice World Champion in 2002 in JEREZ, Olympic Champion in Athens in 2004, Vice European Champion in 2007 to Pratoni del Vivaro and quite recently in 2011 to LUHMUHLEN.
Eventing (also known as horse trials) is an equestrian event comprising dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. This event has its roots in a comprehensive cavalry test requiring mastery of several types of riding. The competition may be run as a one-day event (ODE), where all three events are completed in one day (dressage, followed by show jumping and then cross country) or a three-day event (3DE), which is more commonly now run over four days, with dressage on the first two days followed by cross country the next day and then show jumping in reverse order on the final day. Eventing was previously known as Combined Training, but this usually now refers to a combination of just two of the events, most commonly dressage and show jumping.
Before the beginning of a three-day event, and also before the last phase, horses are inspected by a vet to ensure that they are fit to compete further. It is usually a very formal affair, with well-groomed and braided horses, and nicely dressed riders. It is also a very nerve-racking time, as the "pass" or "fail" determines whether the horse may continue with the competition. A vet can request that a horse is sent to the holding box, when it will then be re-assessed before being allowed to continue.
In lower levels of competition the horse's movement may be analyzed as they finish the cross-country, where they will be asked to trot briefly after crossing the finishing line to satisfy the vet of their soundness.
The dressage phase (held first) consists of an exact sequence of movements ridden in an enclosed arena (20x60m for International 3DE but usually 20x40 for ODE). The test is judged by one or more judges who are looking for balance, rhythm, suppleness, and most importantly, obedience of the horse and its harmony with the rider. The challenge is to demonstrate that a supremely fit horse, capable of completing the cross country phase on time, also has the training to perform in a graceful, relaxed and precise manner.
At the highest level of competition, the dressage test is roughly equivalent to the USDF Third Level, and may ask for half-pass at trot, shoulder-in, travers, collected, medium and extended gaits, single flying changes, and counter-canter. The tests may not ask for Grand Prix movements such as piaffe or passage.
Each movement in the test is scored on a scale from 0 to 10, with a score of "10" being the highest possible mark and with the total maximum score for the test varying depending on the level of competition and the number of movements. Therefore, if one movement is poorly executed, it is still possible for the rider to get a good overall score if the remaining movements are very well executed. The marks are added together and any errors of course deducted. To convert this score to penalty points, the average marks of all judges are converted to a percentage of the maximum possible score, multiplied by a co-efficient decided by the governing body and then subtracted from 100.
Once the bell rings the rider is allowed 45 seconds to enter the ring or is eliminated.
If all four feet of the horse exit the arena during the test, this results in elimination.
If the horse resists more than 20 seconds during the test, this results in elimination.
Errors on course:
- 1st Error = minus 2 marks
- 2nd Error = minus 4 marks
- 3rd Error = elimination
The next phase, cross-country, requires both horse and rider to be in excellent physical shape and to be brave and trusting of each other. This phase consists of approximately 12–20 fences (lower levels), or 30–40 at the higher levels, placed on a long outdoor circuit. These fences consist of very solidly built natural objects (telephone poles, stone walls, etc.) as well as various obstacles such as ponds and streams, ditches, drops and banks, and combinations including several jumping efforts based on objects that would commonly occur in the countryside. Sometimes, particularly at higher levels, fences are designed that would not normally occur in nature. However, these are still designed to be as solid as more natural obstacles. Safety regulations mean that some obstacles are now being built with a "frangible pin system," allowing part or all of the jump to collapse if hit with enough impact. Speed is also a factor, with the rider required to cross the finish line within a certain time frame (optimum time). Crossing the finish line after the optimum time results in penalties for each second over. At lower levels, there is also a speed fault time, incurring penalties for horse and rider pairs completing the course too quickly. For every "disobedience"(refusal or run-out of a jump) a horse and rider incur on course, penalities will be added to their dressage score. After 3 disobediences the pair is eliminated, meaning they can no longer participate in the competition. A horse and rider pair can also be eliminated for going off course, for example missing a fence. Should the horses shoulder or hind-quarter touch the ground, mandatory requirement is taken and they are not allowed to participate further in the competition. If the rider should fall off the horse they are eliminated. However in the US this rule is currently being revised for the Training level and below. The penalties for disobediences on cross country are weighted severely relative to the other phases of competition to emphasize the importance of courage, endurance and athleticism. Fitness is required as the time allowed will require a strong canter at the lower levels, all the way to a strong gallop at the higher events.
In recent years, a controversy has developed between supporters of short and long format three-day events. Traditionally, three day events had dressage, endurance and show jumping. Endurance day consisted of 4 phases, A, B, C and D. Phase A and C were roads and tracks, with A being a medium-paced warm up to prepare the horse and rider for Phase B, a steeplechase format at an extremely fast pace over steeplechase-style fences. Phase C was a slow-paced cool down coming off of Phase B, in preparation for the toughest and most demanding phase, D, or cross-country. Before embarking on Phase D, in the "ten-minute box," horses had to be approved to continue by a vet, who monitored their temperature and heart rate, ensuring that the horse was sound and fit.
Three day events are now offered in the classic format, with endurance day, or short-format, with no steeplechase (phase B) or roads and tracks (phases A and C). The 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens, Greece chose the short format, due to lack of facilities, time and financing, which sparked a large debate in the eventing community whether to keep the steeplechase phase or just offer cross-country. Today, most events are run short-format, except for a few one-star competitions.
Due to major injuries at Red Hills and Rolex in 2008, the rules were changed drastically. The change stated that a fall anywhere during the cross-country phase resulted in elimination, even if the rider was galloping on course and not approaching a jump, or in the middle of a combination. Also, a new rule created elimination for riding in jumping phases without a medical arm band carrying information about the rider's medical history, insurance, medications, and blood type.
Show jumping tests the technical jumping skills of the horse and rider, including suppleness, obedience, fitness and athleticism. In this phase, 12–20 fences are set up in a ring. These fences are typically brightly colored and consist of elements that can be knocked down, unlike cross country obstacles. This phase is also timed, with penalties being given for every second over the required time. In addition to normal jumping skills, eventing show jumping tests the fitness and stamina of the horse and rider, generally being held after the cross-country phase in higher level and international events.