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The Sport of Eventing

Eventing is essentially an "equestrian triathlon" combining three phases of "Dressage," "Cross Country" and "Show Jumping."

This exciting international and Olympic sport has evolved from its origins as a military test of skill to a popular spectator attraction. Eventing is unique in its demand for the partnership between two minds and two bodies. The relationship between horse and rider is paramount.

The grace and elegance of the Dressage, the speed, power and endurance of Cross Country, and the agility and precision of Show Jumping make Eventing high caliber entertainment

Clark Montgomery riding Loughan Glen - dressage

The Dressage phase begins every Eventing competition. The term "dressage" comes from the French word meaning simply "to train." The dressage test consists of a set series of movements performed on the flat in an arena. The degree of difficulty of the dressage test increases with each level of competition. The purpose of the dressage test is to demonstrate communication and harmony between the horse and rider, and display the obedience, power and grace required to perform each movement with balance, suppleness and rhythm in all three gaits. A correct dressage foundation is important in the development of the event horse. Dressage training is necessary to build the communication, muscular strength and suppleness needed for jumping and galloping phases of the event.

Cross Country, usually the second phase of an event, tests the house and rider over varied terrain and obstacles, including water, ditches and banks. The course, which must be negotiated within a time limit, is a test of obedience, jumping ability, bravery, and fitness. The speed required and the length and difficulty of the course increase with each level of competition. A rider's knowledge of pace is essential in order for his horse to finish within the time limit and to use only as much of his horse's energy as necessary. At the more difficult levels, the horse must be capable of increasing demands on his endurance and agility. At the highest levels the total distance covered in this phase can be close to 6 miles.

Clark Montgomery riding Loughan Glen - show jumping

Competitions are classified by international and national "star" (*) levels. The highest levels of international competition are designated as CCI or CIC 3 and 4*. These competitions contain the most difficult dressage movements, the highest and broadest jump combinations and the longest and fastest cross country courses. Final scores are determined by total penalty points added from each of the three phases. Penalty points are obtained based on deductions from dressage movements, refusals to jump cross country obstacles, dropped rails in show jumping, and seconds over the optimum time for cross country and show jumping. The lowest number of total penalty points wins.

Efforts are underway to make eventing a more spectator friendly sport. The events historically were conducted over 3 days. The shorter CIC formats allow events to be conducted over one or two days. The cross country courses are being built over a shorter track with more actual jumping efforts. Riders are running in reverse order for show jumping and cross country with the rider in first place going last. These changes are helping spectators enjoy the sport while not taking up so much of their free time. The sport is also attuned to its inherent risks and is evolving to be safer for both horse and rider with frangible pins allowing cross country jumps to collapse if hit by a horse during the jumping effort.

In both the 1976 and 1984 Olympic Games, the U. S. Three Day Event team won gold medals, as well as individual gold and silver. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, the U. S. Three Day team won the silver medal and the individual bronze medal. At the 1999 Pan-American Games the United States won the team gold medal, and the individual silver and bronze medals. In Sydney in 2000, with an Olympic record breaking score, U. S. Team member, David O'Connor won the individual gold medal. At the 2002 World Equestrian Games, the U. S. Eventing Squad captured the team gold medal. Since that time there have been no medal winning performances until Phillip Dutton won the individual bronze medal in Rio in 2016. US eventers seem to have lost their competitive edge to other countries such as Germany and France. To regain international prominence in the sport, US riders need to improve their dressage scores and experience the more competitive environment offered at events in the UK and Europe. Clark was able to do just that during his time in England and now brings that experience back to the US.


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