Olympic eventing offers some of the most breathtaking moments in equestrian competitions, with horse-and-rider pairs galloping across the scenic countryside. Humans balance atop super-fit equines, vaulting over daunting obstacles, plunging into ponds, and running off to the next challenge.
As the Olympic equestrian cross-country course is constructed for the multi-day eventing competition, with horses and riders gearing up for the outing, spectators may wonder about this high-speed and multi-disciplinary horseback challenge.
What is equestrian eventing?
Also called combined training, equestrian eventing is a multi-disciplinary tournament that tests the athleticism and partnership of equine and human competitors. Often requiring three to four days of competition, equestrian eventing includes dressage, cross-country, and show jumping.
For this reason, many equestrians regard eventing as a top test of skill.
What is cross-country?
Unlike in dressage and show jumping, the cross-country competitor must guide the horse through an open outdoor course, racing over variable terrain with quick turns and multiple challenging jumps and obstacles.
Each horse-and-rider pair is timed during the cross-country trip. Penalties are assessed for jump refusals, out-of-control riding, or exceeding the allowed time for the course. A horse or rider fall results in elimination, as does jumping course obstacles out of order or omitting an obstacle altogether.
Equestrian eventers must wear approved safety helmets on the cross-country course. Participating horsemen also wear equestrian breeches with knee-patch inserts, body-protecting safety vests, and tall riding boots.
How are equestrian eventing competitions structured?
For the Summer Olympics, three-day equestrian eventing generally begins with dressage, followed by cross-country and show jumping. Each equestrian must ride the same horse for all three days.
Men and women compete in the same divisions in equestrian eventing,
Approved equine veterinarians inspect all participating horses before equestrian eventing competition begins and before the final phase.
How is equestrian eventing scored?
In the Olympic Games, as in all major international eventing shows, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) oversees the competition.
Cumulative scores, totaling each horse-and-rider pair's results from all three portions of the competition, determine the top performers in equestrian eventing.
The Summer Olympic Games feature six gold medal competitions, with individual and team medals awarded in dressage, eventing and show jumping.
Linda Ann Nickerson, horse breeder and equestrian, brings decades of experience and a globally-minded Midwestern perspective to a host of topics, balancing human interest with history, hard facts and often humor.
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