Eventing is the ultimate test of the equine & human athlete. There is nothing else like it. It consists of 3 disciplines: dressage, cross country, and stadium (otherwise known as showjumping). It can be thought of as the triathalon of equine sports. Scores from all 3 tests are tallied together to acheive one score. The lowest scoring horse and rider combination are the winners. Events (also known as Horse Trials) may be held for 1, 2, or 3 days depending on the level of competition. There are various levels, and are progressive. United States Eventing Association (USEA) is the governing body for eventing in the USA. USEA recognizes levels: Beginner Novice (2'7"), Novice (2'11"), Training (3'3"), Preliminary (3'7"), Intermediate (3'9"), and Advanced (3'11").
Eventing was originally used as a test for calvary horses, but has since developed into a sport that is recognized throughout the world. All horses and riders must build up their skills. Once you reach certain levels in the sport, you must obtain certain standards and qualifications before progressing to the next level. It is also one of the only disciplines were professionals and amateurs compete together. Even professionals will start at the lower levels with a young horse.
In the traditional format, dressage would be the first discipline. Dressage is a French word that means "training". Riders will ride a predetermined test that is a series of movements & gaits from memorization. The pair are judged on obedience, accuracy, quality of gaits, submission, effectiveness of rider, and harmony. Cross country horses tend to be much more fit than horses from other disciplines, this makes the dressage phase extra difficult. The pair does their dressage test before the horse is tired, so this is truly a test of harmony, submission, and willingness.
Cross Country typically will be the second discipline. The object of this test is to prove the speed, endurance, and jumping ability of the horse over varied terrain and obstacles. In order to accomplish this task, the horse and rider must be at peak physical condition. The horse must be brave and obedient, and the rider must use knowledge of pace in order to expend only as much of the horse's energy as necessary, if they expect to finish well. There are penalties for coming in both too fast and too slow. Cross country courses typically cover anywhere from 2-8 miles and can have 12-30 jumping attempts of solid obstacles on varied terrain.
The third and final test will be stadium (showjumping). This will be conducted in an arena. The horse and rider will jump 12-15 fences with poles that are able to fall down. Jumps may be brightly colored, and can include spread fences, combinations, liverpools, and ditches. This final phase tests the stamina and recovery of the horse after the cross country phase and shows that the horse is fit enough to continue work. This is typically a more technical type of course and requires adjustability and accuracy.
For most people starting out in the sport, it is highly suggested that you begin at lower levels that are not recognized by USEA. These levels (typically named Amoeba, Tadpole, Starter, etc...) are offered at schooling events. Most of the time schooling events will be held over 1 day. These are typically wonderful events to help you get started in the sport.
If you are interested in learning more about the sport of eventing, make sure that you find a trainer that knows the sport and is able to instruct you. Typical hunter/jumper trainers will not necesarily be able to coach you in eventing. The styles are very different, and jumping in eventing is much more of a risk. If you are in the Chattanooga area, please contact me. I have a lot of experience in eventing, and I would love to work with you!