The History of Three-Day Eventing

Eventing receives its roots from the military and during its first years the sport was so aptly named “The Militaire”. Eventing was first introduced at the Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden in 1912. The purpose of the sport was to test the precision, elegance, and obedience of the army horse on the parade ground; the stamina and courage of the horse in battle; and finally proving the fitness of the horse after the previous difficulties. At first only Army officers on military chargers could compete in the sport but by 1924 at the Paris Olympics civilians were allowed to compete.

The Paris Olympics in 1924 saw Eventing similar to its structure today with a Dressage Test on the first day; the Endurance Test on the second day which included phases A (roads and tracks), B (steeplechase), C (longer roads and tracks), D (cross country) as well as a phase E that was a 1 ¼ mile flat run after cross country. The third day of the event was the Show Jumping Test which again was meant to test the fitness of the horse specifically after the Endurance Test. Today our modern sport has reduced the Endurance Test and we now only have Phase D, the cross country on the second day.

What is a CCI ?

The sport of ‘Eventing’ or ‘Horse Trials’ could be described as an ‘equestrian triathlon’, being the ultimate test of horse and rider. Competitors are tested over three phases including dressage, cross country and show jumping. The sport is administered by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) and they set the precise rules that competitors are expected to follow at all international events in order to ensure safety and enjoyment for all.

International events have category titles and levels. Category titles include CCI’s and CIC’s. A CCI is a three day event, whilst a CIC is a one day event. Whilst the CIC can be run in one day many CIC’s are run over a number of days to allow for more entries. Both categories of event are open to competitors from an unlimited number of foreign nations as well as the nation that is holding the event. The levels of international events are identified by the number of stars next to the category; there are five levels in total. A one star (*) is new for 2019 for Novice horses that are just being introduced to International competition. A two star (**) is geared for Novice-Intermediate horses that have some experience of international competition. A three star (***) event is for Intermediate-Advanced horses who have been competing successfully at BE Intermediate Level. A four star (****) event is for Advanced Horses who have been well tested at International Level

The highest level of competition is the five star (*****). With only five such competitions in the world (Badminton, Burghley, Kentucky, Luhmuhlen and Adelaide) it is the ultimate aim of many riders.

This year’s Event at Hartpury will include a CCI2*-L, a CCI3*-L and a CCI4*-S. The sequence of phases for the CCI4*-S will be dressage, followed by show jumping, followed by cross country.

The Dressage Phase

The Dressage Phase constitutes an ordered series of movements called a ‘Test’ that each competitor has to ride individually. The purpose of dressage is to develop harmony in the physique and ability of the horse consequently making the horse calm, supple, loose, and flexible. Each test is judged by a panel of judges and the accuracy of each movement is given a score out of ten. Marks are also given on the horse’s paces, the impulsion and submission of the horse, as well as the riders’ position. When the test is scored the mark is transferred into penalties; therefore a lower score with fewer penalty points is ultimate. Dressage may only be one phase of three but it is considered the basis of success for the entire competition.

The Cross Country Phase

Quite possibly the most exhilarating and adrenaline inducing of the three phases, the purpose of the Cross Country Phase is to prove the speed, endurance and jumping ability of the well trained horse in peak condition. Also the competitor’s knowledge of their horse’s paces and power are tested.

Cross Country at Hartpury Horse Trials

30 Jumping efforts Height of Fences – 1.10m
Distance 3640m – 4160m Speed 520 metres per minute

34 Jumping efforts Height of Fences – 1.15m
Distance 4400m – 4950m Speed 520 metres per minute

35 Jumping Efforts Height of Fences – 1.20m
Distance 3200-4000m Speed 570 metres per minute

Take a look at the cross country courses via the Cross Country App –

CCI2* Long

CCI3* Long

CCI4* Short


First refusal, run-out or circle – 20 penalties
Second refusal, run-out or circle at the same obstacle – 40 penalties
Third refusal, run-out or circle at the same obstacle – elimination
Fall of rider at an obstacle – elimination
Fall of horse at an obstacle – elimination
Breaking approved safety devices on XC fences – 25 penalties
Exceeding Optimum time – 0.4 penalty / second

The Jumping Phase

The purpose of the Jumping Test is to simply prove that the horses that have performed the strains of the Cross Country phase have retained the suppleness, energy, and obedience necessary for them to continue. The course may seem easy after the efforts of the previous day but the tracks are usually windy, difficult and take precision to complete successfully.


Knocking down an obstacle – 4 penalties
First disobedience in whole test – 4 penalties
Second disobedience in whole test – elimination
Fall of competitor – elimination
Fall of horse – elimination
Time penalties 1 penalty per second / part second over the time allowed