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HorseShowCentral > Riding Styles & Disciplines > Eventing (Three Day Event)

Eventing (Three Day Event) - Riding Styles & Disciplines

Horse and Rider team flying over an Event obstacle. Eventing (Three Day Event) Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below

The discipline of Eventing or Three Day Event is a complete test of all around horsemanship, combining dressage, cross country and show jumping. An event may be held over one to three days with a cross country course of twenty to thirty solid fences suiting the level of the event and the grade of horse competing. Grades range from Novice to Preliminary (in USA pre-training and training), and Intermediate to Open or advanced.


Developed from trials for cavalry patrol horses, this discipline and sport has now become one of global attraction for both amateurs and professionals of any age. One fact remains as true for eventing competitors today as for the cavalry mount and rider of old, only complete confidence will energize the last reserves, only complete confidence in each other keeps horse and rider ongoing in the face of such gigantic efforts. Never do horse and rider need each other more, never are they more united in a common cause.

The Three Day Event is the ultimate test. the dressage test on the first day . Cross-country, on the second day, begins with a steeplechase course of 5 to 10 fences over 1 to 2 miles and two sections (roads/tracks) from about 6 to 10 miles total. These last are the speed and endurance phase. The third say is the show jumping course -- the total equals an equine version of the modern pentathlon

All disciplines are represented in the Three Day Event, which is why the French call it concours complet.

In addition to the Olympic and Pan American Games, a World Championship is held every four years. Yet this sport is not limited to the international competitions and there are varied levels of difficulty and a wide range of competitions all across the country.


In eventing, the horse must possess the ability to jump trenches, vault minor fortifications and scale elevations; he must travel uphill, on slopes as well as downhill. Such trials reveal whether the spirit is courageous and the body sound.

Three Day Event horses must surpass all others in courage and tenacity and demands every accomplishment of which horse and rider are capable.

The most fundamental quality of an eventing horse is an unconditional confidence in the rider, just as the rider must trust completely in the horse. A unity is formed to accomplish incredible tasks, defying even exhaustion.


A dressage ring 22 yards wide, 66 yards long. A dressage test 19 different drills and exercises to be done from memory within seven and a half minutes!

Each drill is rated 0 to 6, with four more ratings for tempo, impulsion, relaxation, responsiveness and obedience of horse and seat and control of the rider with correct application of the aids. The horse should be obedient and show movements of freedom and ease. Horse and rider appear in total harmony with each other.

Points may be deducted for going over the time limit, or for improper execution or omission of movements. A fourth error during the test means elimination.

In the performance of dressage the horse becomes very fit with ease of movement. The value of this discipline to the military mount ( always read for battle) is apparent and was also of worth on the parade ground or in troop review. Today, dressage conditions the horse for the endurance test.

As the day of dressage begins, all are well groomed and shiny. Small, showy fences mark off the dressage rectangle. The precision and extreme concentration of dressage is clearly seen and felt, but the atmosphere of the hard battle to take place on day two is felt by all.


The starting flag lowers and the rider has no eyes for the beautiful landscape; thoughts center on the clock, maintenance of speed, allotment of walking, trotting and galloping according to the difficulty of the terrain. The main thought is to save energy and get to the race track with a horse still possessing some go.

Horse and rider must gallop over an outside course of solid obstacles that the horse has never seen before. There are four phases to the Cross-Country test and each must be completed in a set amount of time.

Phase A (roads and tracks) - approximately three and a half miles of walk and trot as a warm-up, going right into the next phase.

Phase B (the steeplechase the race track) approximately two and one-eighth miles at a gallop over approximately eight steeplechase fences, at an average speed of 24 mph, then proceeding to the next phase.

Phase C (the second roads and tracks) - The race track leads directly into this phase during which the horse must recuperate from the hard gallop, because the most difficult phase lies ahead.

Approximately seven miles as a relaxation from extreme effort of the steeplechase, sometimes the rider runs along the horse.

This phase also includes a veterinary examination of the horse for injuries, lameness or exhaustion at the ten-minute Vet Box prior to starting the nest phase.

Phase D (the cross-country) the gallop begins! Hills, underbrush, woods, open meadows, section of a trail, with the constancy of one jump after another. The horse’s pace springs, his whole body springs at a long hunting gallop. It will now become evident if the resources of the horse are sufficient to master the many jumps over hugely varying terrain, or perhaps the speed on the rack track was too much.

The obstacles are solid, the options are to take them or fall. Approximately five miles at a gallop over 45 to 36 solid obstacles that can be up to four feet high and ten feet wide (at the base), with the horse traveling over 20 mph. Both horse and rider must be bold and smart and possess much stamina.

The last half of the cross country test is a marathon. Will the end never come? The rider bravely asks, over and over; the horse still accepts willingly, often running on the bloodlines of ancestors and his own heart too. Effort reaches the limit of confidence, loyalty and ability wherever that limit is.

In Olympic and World Championship competition, the total mileage to be covered on the speed and endurance phase can be up to twenty miles.


The effort of the cross country is over but the four-legged marathon runner’s test is not finished unless the vet check on this day stops them from competing in the last day of stadium show jumping. Many a Three day event is decided only on this last day of show jumping. When the total points for dressage and cross country are close, tension is high.

This third and final test contains twelve to fifteen show jumps, normally including at least one combination, two spread fences, and in some cases a ditch or water jump. During this one day of show jumping the horse is not allowed, as he normally is, to splash through a water jump, but must clear it. Horses must have retained the suppleness, energy and obedience necessary for them to continue to serve, after the previous day of a severe test of endurance. The course is designed to test abilities to handle a variety of fences of different heights and widths and the horse must be able to shorten or lengthen his stride as needed.

Three Day Event horses are really expected to be capable of everything! Eventing Horse and rider must complete all four phases, in order and one time with as few penalties as possible.

At the end of the event, each test is scored individually, penalties added, scores totaled. The lowest score is the winning score. In the case of a team competition, the individual scores of each of the four team members are added together. If all four team members have completed the competition the best three scores count and the team with the lowest team total is the winner.

Jumping an obstacle while Eventing. Jumping up a level before taking the obstacle. 2 riders waiting their turn to compete during a Three Day Event. Covering distance at a steady rate, between jumps while Eventing.

Article ©HorseShowCentral.com Photo at the top of the page and the first two above ©Jolene Bertrand -Avalon Photography 3rd & 4th photo © Kevin Silburn. Reproduction of any portion of this copyrighted website without written permission of the publisher is prohibited and subject to legal action.

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Thoroughbred Horses, the Warmbood horse, or the Sport Horse.

Other Horse Breeds also used in eventing, like the occasional Standardbred.

Dressage and Show Jumping are included in the discipline of the Three Day Event and also of interest to those who compete in eventing is information about the Hunter Jumper horses.

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