About the Events | United States Eventing Association, Inc. - US National Combined Training, Horse Trials: Dressage, Cross Country, Show Jumping

About the Events

Horse Trials

A horse trial takes place over one, two or three days, and involves three distinct phases or tests-with varying degrees of difficulty, depending on the competitive level. Taken as a whole, these phases portray the ability, versatility, and preparedness of horse and rider. Penalty points are recorded and then totalled for the three tests, resulting in a combined score for the whole trial--thus eventing's synonym, combined training. The lowest score wins.

The Tests


The first test of horse and rider involves a series of prescribed classical movements performed on the flat in an enclosed arena. The judges look for a supple, balanced, and lively yet relaxed ride. As in figure skating, both precision of individual movements and overall impression enter into the scoring formula.

Eventing's best-known phase, this crucial second test is the heart of the sport. Horse and rider gallop over natural terrain, jumping a variety of fixed obstacles along the way. The rider may inspect the course beforehand, but the horse leaves the starting box not knowing what lies ahead. This discipline demands absolute trust between horse and rider.

Show Jumping

In this phase, horse and rider jump a series of painted fences in an enclosed arena. Show jumping tests the obedience and suppleness of the horse and demonstrates that sufficient stamina and fitness still remain after the strenuous demands of cross-country. In a horse trial, show jumping may be scheduled before cross-country; whatever the sequence, this phase completes the breadth of testing in the eventing triathalon.

The Levels of Competition

Eventing offers levels suited to the skills of all competitors, from the recreational rider to the expert with Olympic goals in sight--or anywhere in between.

More than 75% of USEA members compete at the novice and training levels, which are designed to introduce the sport to the first-time competitor. By offering straightforward dressage tests and moderate jumps, both levels are designed to be within the reach of all would-be eventers willing to train appropriately.

At the preliminary level, the challenge broadens with more intricate dressage movements and technical problems of speed and distance between fences.

Eventing's top two levels, intermediate and advanced, are not for the faint of heart, since competition becomes progressively more difficult. Complex dressage movements require more suppleness and strength. Cross-country courses are negotiated at greater speed over bigger, technically more searching obstacles. Show jumping fences grow higher and wider, and are arranged in more athletically demanding combinations. Riders must qualify for these upper levels by winning points at the preliminary level, and minimum age restrictions for both horse and rider apply.

The Three-Day Event - The Supreme ChallengeOnce a competitor reaches the preliminary level, sights are often set on tackling the ultimate test-the full three-day event. Dressage begins the competition on the first day. The second day encompasses the complete, four-phase speed and endurance test: Phase A-roads and tracks, a specified distance to be covered at a moderate trot; Phase B-a steeplechase against the clock; Phase C-another roads and tracks; Phase D-the cross-country test of three to five miles. Day three brings show jumping, the final phase.

Keep in mind: the three-day event is not a competition to be taken lightly! Horse and rider must both be ready physically and mentally for the challenges presented here. Throughout the competition, every horse must pass a series of veterinary inspections to monitor the horse's health, soundness, and ability to safely complete the competition. But the conditioning, training, and thorough preparation pay off when, at the close of the third day, all three days have been successfully completed.

The USEA in Association With...


US Equestrian Federation is the regulatory body for equestrian sports in the United States. In cooperation with the USEA, USEF licenses officials, sets rules, and establishes standards which ensure uniformity and safety at USEA competitions throughout the country.

The Competitors

The Event Horse

With correct training and lots of hard work, almost any horse can have "a shot at the top" in the sport of eventing. Indeed, you will find that event horses come in all different shapes and sizes, representing many different breeds and cross-breeds.

There are common threads, however, that bind together these equine athletes. Physically, the event horse is sound in eye, wind, limb, and heart; he jumps bravely and safely. In temperament, he is generous, yet somewhat aggressive. Consider what is asked of him in the course of competition. He must be calm, light, and precise for dressage. He needs controlled speed, boldness, and jumping talent for cross-country. And he must switch gears to show that he has enough reserve left to tackle a show jumping course accurately and obediently. It's no wonder that international event rider Denny Emerson calls the event horse "the gladiator of equestrian sport, the bravest of the brave."

The Rider

Event riders are athletes of a very special sort. They compete in the most demanding of all equestrian sports-one which combines three different disciplines and requires horsemanship of an all-around ability. They must be fit enough to keep pace with their horses and self-disciplined enough to train faithfully for rigorous competition.

Just like event horses, event riders differ in shape, size, sex, and age-the sport offers a level of competition for everyone. The lower levels give newcomers a place to start while the increasing challenges of levels beyond provide the incentive to keep training and competing. Event riders take their training seriously, and the results are enormously rewarding.

You don't have to ride to be an important part of the USEA!

If you are an eventing enthusiast who chooses not to compete, the USEA has a special place for you-because volunteers, sponsors, and spectators are the backbone of eventing. There are hundreds of USEA horse trials and events nationwide and, at each of these, the number of volunteers working to assure the competition's safety and success far outweighs the number of competitors entered. Sponsors help cover the financial burden imposed by competitions, while spectators add invaluable support to the sport.

Join the USEA!

Help the USEA administer safe, well-run competitions that will allow our sport to grow and prosper. Membership dues provide funding for educational programs across the country, for publications that benefit competitors and officials, and for campaigns aimed to develop and promote the sport. Members may compete in all USEA events and are eligible for championship competitions and awards at all levels. Members may take part in regional and national adult and young rider team competitions. Members receive the USA Equestrian Rules for Eventing; the USEA Omnibus, a quarterly listing of registered competitions; and Eventing USA , a lively and informative bi-monthly magazine; numerous regional newsletters; plus information on educational clinics and schooling opportunities.

Join the dedicated group spreading the word about the fun, the teamwork, and the excitement of eventing! 

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