Dressage is a French term that means “training”. The horse and rider work to demonstrate precision, smoothness, suppleness and complete obedience as they perform a series of maneuvers called the test. Each test will demonstrate a different level of collection and difficulty with a greater level of training as the levels progress. Each movement is scored out of 10, and the rider with the highest percentage will win the Test. Dressage is referred to as the “highest expression of horse training” and this is easily seen when a horse responds effortlessly to a skilled rider’s aids.
Show Jumping is a class of jumping that is timed over obstacles that will fall when hit. It is solely based on three things. Did the horse jump the obstacle on the first attempt? Has the horse clearly made it over the fence without knocking anything down? Did they finish the course within the time requirement? This discipline is most recognized for its brightly colored rails that will easily fall when they are hit by a horse. These courses are designed with lots of tight turns, changes of direction and have a variety of verticals, oxers and combinations. Riders that have a clean round with no penalties will move onto the jump off round which is a shortened course with higher fences. Whoever finishes the course in the fastest time with no jumping penalties is the winner.
Eventing is a combination of three phases; Dressage and Show Jumping, as described previously, and Cross County. Eventing can be referred to as the Triathlon of horses. Dating centuries back, eventing was actually a military endurance test of the ideal cavalry mount, but has since evolved into a sport for horse enthusiasts of all levels. Dressage is always first, followed by the Cross Country which is a test of speed, endurance and jumping ability over different types of jumps such as ditches, logs, drops, banks, skinny jumps and water obstacles over varying terrain. Courses can be from 2-4 miles long with a range of 24-36 jumping questions. Riding across this course at a gallop requires ultimate fitness of both horse and rider, as it requires quick thinking and bravery as they navigate through tricky turns and difficult combinations. Riders who stay within the time limit, and acquire no extra penalties will remain in their same standing from Dressage or move up. Penalties accumulated from jumping errors such as the horse refusing to jump, rider falls, or time penalties get added onto your Dressage score. The Cross Country is most often a crowd favorite to watch, as you can be right up in the middle of the action. The phase is followed by the Show jumping, and whichever pair has acquired the least amount of penalty points is the champion.