The ultimate test of horse and rider! One event, three disciplines, testing the resolve of the timeless partnership between horse and rider.
DRESSAGE on Thursday and Friday is held in the breathtaking outdoor stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park, where spectators enjoy the grace, refined beauty and elegance of dressage as competitors trot their way through the first phase of competition. Dressage, which tests the gaits, suppleness and obedience of the horse through a series of prescribed movements.
The Second phase, CROSS-COUNTRY, is the highlight of Eventing. Saturday is the most exciting day of Kentucky Three-Day Event as thousands gather to watch horses and riders gallop over four miles of the challenging terrain, at speeds up to 25 mph, while negotiating remarkable obstacles, water hazards, banks and ditches.
The JUMPING TEST, the final phase, brings the energy and precision of jumping back to the outdoor stadium on Sunday. Spectators from across the globe witness the world’s finest horses and riders test their athletic ability, conditioning and training as they soar over obstacles.
The History of Eventing
First performed in 1912, this “complete equestrian competition” has only gained in popularity. The equestrian sport of Eventing was first introduced at the Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1912 under the name “The Militaire.”
THE TESTS OF this newly organized equestrian competition were patterned after the training and testing of military chargers —precision, elegance, and obedience on the parade ground; stamina, versatility and courage on marches and in battle; cross-country jumping ability and endurance in traveling great distances over difficult terrain and formidable obstacles in the relaying of important dispatches; and jumping ability in the arena to prove the horse’s fitness to remain in service. Spread over consecutive days, it was a complete test for the Army horse, and in fact only Army officers on active duty were allowed to compete in the first Olympic Three-Day Event, and they had to be mounted on military chargers.
At the Paris Olympics of 1924, the format of the competition was established — a Dressage Test on the first day; an Endurance Test on the second day, including a short Roads and Tracks (Phase A), followed immediately by a Steeplechase (Phase B), which in turn was followed immediately by a long Roads and Tracks (Phase C). A compulsory halt was instituted after Phase C for a veterinary examination, after which the competitor began Phase D, Cross-Country. In Paris there was an additional Phase E on the second day, a 1 1/4 mile run-in on the flat after the Cross-Country, but this phase was removed by the next Olympics. The third and final day was the Show Jumping Test. As of 1924, the Three-Day Event was open to civilians, but noncommissioned Army officers were not allowed to take part in Olympic competition until 1956, and women riders not until 1964.
Because the competition took place over three days, the English coined the descriptive term “Three-Day Event,” and the sport of Eventing became firmly entrenched in the equestrian activities of Great Britain. The Americans adopted the English terminology and developed a general term, “combined training,” for this activity that is a combination of disciplines and training methods in the development of a usable riding horse.
The sport has various levels of proficiency, and modifications have been made at the lower levels to enable even the novice horse and rider, with a basic background of sound horsemanship and jumping ability to participate. “Horse Trials” present the core of the Three-Day Event — Dressage, Cross-Country and Show Jumping — usually taking place over one or two days.
Until 2004, the Olympic Three-Day Event and the World Three-Day Event Championships of the World Equestrian Games presented Eventing in its classic format as a showcase of International Team and Individual representatives competing for their home country’s honor and prestige, as well as individual achievement.
For the 2004 Olympic Games, a new format was introduced that shortened the Cross-Country Test by deleting the Roads and Tracks and Steeplechase phases. This short format is now the standard for all Three-Day Events.
It is the French, with their musical and literal language, who have provided the term that is most apropos of the essence of the sport. Known as the Concours Complet d’Equitation, or “complete equestrian competition,” this in fact is what the Three-Day Event is: A comprehensive test of all-around horsemanship of the rider and ability of the horse.
The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international equestrian federation which governs the sport, has laid down exact rules that must be followed at all international events and states: “Eventing constitutes the most complete combined competition, demanding of the athlete considerable experience in all branches of equitation and a precise knowledge of the horse’s ability, and of the horse a degree of general competence resulting from intelligent and progressive training. It covers all around riding ability and horsemanship: the harmony between horse and rider that characterize Dressage; the contact with nature, precise knowledge of the horses ability and extensive experience essential for the Cross-Country; the precision, agility and technique involved in Jumping.