Triathlon for Equestrians Tests the Mettle of Horses and Humans
What It Takes to Ride in a Three-Day Event
There are five levels of competition in Eventing - novice, training, preliminary, intermediate and advanced. At each successive level, a horse has to jump higher, run farther and faster, trust its rider more. The degree of difficulty for gymnastic exercises both on the flat, in the dressage phase and over fences during the cross-country test, increases progressively. Radnor is offering competition at the intermediate level.
Three day events have a particular nomenclature, a preliminary -level three day event is designated by a star (*); intermediate level is indicated by two stars (**); and advanced level competitions have three stars (***). In addition, three day events in the United States now fall into one of three categories: CCN, or a national three day event; CCA, or a friendly international three day event, open to a limited number of countries, and CCI, a full-fledged international competition.
For the National Intermediate Championship at Radnor, riders must be at least 16 years of age, and their horses must be at least six years old. In addition, the competitors must have proven themselves in a variety of strict qualification guidelines which include successfully completing other competitions of a similar level. Foreign horses must have the permission of their National Federation to compete and must conform to the International Equestrian Federation's rules for eligibility.
The First Phase: Dressage Competition
The Dressage test in Three-Day Eventing reflects the cavalry officer's need for an obedient, attractive mount on the parade ground. The objective is to demonstrate harmonious development of the horse's physique and its balance.
Each horse/rider combination is required to perform a prescribed set of movements within a confined area. Three independent judges award marks for each movement, ranging from 0 to 10. There are also collective marks for the horse's pace, impulsion and submission to its rider's direction, as well as for each rider's position and use of the aids. The test must be executed from memory. Errors or incorrect sequences of movements are penalized.
Throughout the Dressage test, the judges are looking for calmness and relaxation, combined with impulsion and rhythm, all from a horse that should be at the peak of fitness, full of energy for the strenuous demands of the competition still to come. A dressage performance should be fluid, balanced and accurate, providing an overall picture of grace and harmony.
This capability cannot be obtained overnight. Many years of training go into producing a well-schooled horse that can perform a good dressage test. Additionally, without the obedience and suppleness dressage requires, the cross-country and jumping phases would be considerably more difficult.
The Cross-Country Test
The Cross-Country test is the most exciting and challenging part of a Three-Day Event. It is made up of four parts: two sessions of Roads and Tracks, a Steeplechase and a final phase of as many as 30 obstacles set in varied terrain, which. Some obstacles may include four or five separate jumping efforts.
When casual observers think of Three-Day Eventing, they usually envision the thrilling final phase; yet each portion of the Cross-Country Test proves the rider's knowledge of pace and use of the horse across country.
Competitors must complete the Cross-Country test within a prescribed Optimum Time. Going too fast and going too slowly are both penalized. The four separate phases are separately timed, each requiring a different speed and offering varied and specific challenges. Under adverse conditions of weather or terrain, phase lengths and times allowed may be altered for safety reasons. In the cross-country phase, penalties are also incurred for jumping faults such as refusals and run-outs, in addition to time penalties.
Stadium Jumping Test
The final component of a Three-Day Event is the stadium jumping test. In order to compete, horses must have passed a required series of veterinary inspections after the Cross-Country phase. Stadium jumping tests the horses ability to retain the suppleness, energy and obedience necessary for them to complete a jumping course of 10 to 12 obstacles, without faults and within the time allowed, after their great efforts the previous day.
Stadium jumping is held in a confined arena on level ground, and the jumps used, though just as tall, are less massive than those on the cross-country course. Because these jumps are built of separate and detachable pieces, such as horizontal poles balanced in narrow sockets bolted to uprights, it is relatively easy for horses to knock down elements of the jumps, resulting in penalties.
The overall winners of a Three-Day Event are determined by converting the Dressage scores to penalties, and adding the penalties incurred in the Cross-Country and Stadium Jumping Tests. The competitor with the lowest number of penalties wins.