Eventing is the triathlon of equestrian sport. Also known as horse trials or three-day eventing, this discipline requires horses and riders to master three phases of competition: dressage, cross-country, and show jumping.

Initially developed to test cavalry horses, the sport evolved to maintain its spot as one of three equestrian disciplines featured in the Olympic Games. Today, eventing horses are some of the most impressive equine athletes in the world.

However, eventing isn’t just a sport for daring elite riders. There are several levels of competition, allowing riders and horses of all abilities to participate in the discipline and train as well-rounded athletes.

Get to know these triathletes of the equestrian world and keep reading to learn more about eventing history, competition, training, and horses.

What is Eventing?

Eventing is an equestrian discipline in which horses and riders complete three stages of competition designed to test training, endurance, and versatility.

Successful eventing combinations demonstrate balance and harmony in dressage, bravery and accuracy in cross-country, and precision and timing in show jumping. Combinations receive a score for each phase, combined for an overall score to determine the winner.

The dressage tests, cross-country courses and show jumping courses become more complex as combinations move up the levels. Competitions can take place over a single day or multiple days. Three-day events traditionally schedule the three phases on separate days.

History of Eventing

Dressage and show jumping are their own equestrian disciplines with unique histories. Eventing is unique because of the cross-country phase, which has roots in military endurance tests and fox hunting.

The first competitions to resemble modern eventing occurred at France’s 1902 Championnat du Cheval d’Armes. These early military competitions tested the fitness, training, and versatility of cavalry horses. [1]

Only commissioned military officers could participate in Eventing when the sport first appeared in the Olympic Games in 1912. [1]

Early competitions during the military era included a speed and endurance test with five phases:

  • Phase A: Road and Tracks
  • Phase B: Steeplechase
  • Phase C: Road and Tracks
  • Phase D: Cross-Country
  • Phase E: Cool Down

Known as the long format, the five phases totalled over 20 miles and had a complicated scoring system.

Eventing began to expand outside the military when the 10th Duke of Beaufort established the first Badminton Horse Trials in 1949. Event riders during the era typically participated in other horse sports and often used eventing to train for fox hunting.

Scoring systems and competition formats gradually became less complicated until the modern format debuted in 2004. This format removed the endurance aspect and established the three phases seen in competition today.

Eventing Sport Organizations

The emergence of official sports organizations helped standardize competition formats as more riders began participating in horse trials. Eventing still relies on these organizations to govern the sport and develop national and international competition rules.

FEI

The International Olympic Committee recognizes the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) as the official international governing body for horse sports. The FEI oversees all international eventing championships and events, including the Olympic Games.

The FEI recognizes seven international disciplines, including the three Olympic equestrian sports.

Recognized FEI disciplines include:

USEF

Established as the American Horse Shows Association in 1917, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) is the national governing body for horse sport in the United States.

USEF recognizes all the FEI disciplines and 11 additional national disciplines.

These national USEF disciplines include:

  • English Pleasure
  • Carriage Pleasure Driving