Eventing is a test of horse and rider and comprises three disciplines – Dressage, Show-jumping and Cross Country.   The scores from each of the three phases are totalled to produce an overall figure.   The scoring system works on a penalty basis so the lower the score, the better.

A competition can take place over one, two or three days, depending upon the level with BE90 / 100 at the lower end and three and four star events at the higher end.

Both horse and rider need to develop their skills and gain experience in order to compete at the higher levels, because the difficulty in all three phases increases with each step up from novice levels, to intermediate to advanced.

The Three Disciplines

Each of the three disciplines is designed to test the horse’s ability – dressage shows how trainable the horse is and its basic paces in walk, trot and canter. The show-jumping shows athleticism, control and accuracy while the cross country tests stamina, speed, jumping and bravery. The sport is rather like the pentathlon in that it combines different disciplines in one competition and is run on a cumulative penalty basis. The competitor with least penalties at the end is the winner.


The first test is dressage, which comprises a set sequence of compulsory movements in an arena. The test is judged by one or more judges who are looking for balance, rhythm and suppleness and most importantly, obedience of the horse and its harmony with the rider. Each movement is scored out of ten with the total being added up and converted to a penalty score (and percentage).


The show-jumping phase is one round of jumping with a maximum time allowed and the objective is to jump all the fences clear inside the time. The fences are not as high as top level show-jumping but are quite substantial for horses which are not specialists at show-jumping. Fences knocked down and refusals incur penalties as does exceeding the time allowed.


The third phase is the cross-country where a course of natural obstacles has to be jumped – again inside an optimum time – being over the time incurs penalties and being well under it is of no benefit and unnecessarily tires the horse. Stopping at obstacles or falling off also incurs penalties.