Three-Day-Eventing: A Horse’s Pentathlon? What’s That All About, Then?
My debut novel, Spirit of Prophecy features a mixture of the paranormal, wicca, science fiction wrapped up in a good old-fashioned murder/mystery, Spirit of Prophecy is centred around the rarefied world of three-day-eventing. I want to take some time today to explain a little about how the Three-Day-Event works and why it is so popular within the equine community and with the general public, at large.
In the equestrian world, the three-day event is seen, by many, to be the pinnacle of equine supremacy. Why would be this be so? Simply put, the three-day event tests all of the innate skills of the horse and of horsemanship by combining three equine events into a challenging series of obstacles that tests not only speed, endurance and courage, but also accuracy and temperament. It perfectly encapsulates all that makes horses and horse competitions so enthralling to both the equine community and the general public.
Three-day eventing and the horses and riders that participate in it forms the central platform of my debut novel, Spirit of Prophecy, with one of the principal characters Juliet Jermaine being the current Olympic champion in the Three-Day Event and her horses the focus of much of the action that takes place in the story. For this reason, I’d just like to explain how the three-day event works and give readers some insight into why it is such an esteemed event within the equine community.
Although eventing is extremely popular all over the world these days, it is and always was a quintessentially British sport. Like so many other sports Britain has introduced to the world, the students have, to a large extent, become the masters. The sport still has plenty of British champions, but the powerhouses of three-day eventing are now to be found in the colonies; New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada, and parts of South America. It is truly a world-wide phenomenon and incredibly popular, as both a televised and live spectator sport.
As hinted in the title of this piece, the three-day event is comparable to the human pentathlon or decathlon, in that it tests all aspects of a horse and rider’s skills, ultimately looking for, if you like, “the best equine athlete in the world.” Although some events are held over one or two days, in general terms, the event is performed over a three day time frame. It consists of three very different and challenging disciplines; dressage, cross-country, and show-jumping.
The dressage could perhaps best be put in terms of human endeavour. In many ways it is similar to a ballet performance, but one that requires the horses to undertake a series of predetermined moves, within a specified, enclosed arena. This is the only subjective part of the three-day event and a judge or team of judges awards demerit points for horses and riders that do not perform exactly to the laid-out requirements. Judges will be looking for balance, rhythm, suppleness and most importantly perhaps, cooperation and affinity between horse and rider. The basic idea of dressage is to show that a horse is not only capable of strength, power and endurance, but also can perform in a graceful, relaxed and precise manner. Demerit points awarded in this discipline are then carried over to the cross-country and show-jumping phases of the three-day event. The key to winning, for horse and rider is to score the lowest number of points.
The cross-country is the most physical of the three events and truly tests horse’s and rider’s, speed, stamina, courage and endurance. Cross-country courses vary all over the world and are unique to the designers, but they all have one thing in common; they aim to offer the rider an opportunity to take risks or to play it safe. There is often more than one way of completing an obstacle in the various challenges set. Many cross-country courses are set in exceptionally beautiful countryside, which encourages spectators to flock to the event for a “family day out”. Two of the most prestigious and beautiful such sites in Britain are the annual events held at Badminton and Burleigh, both of which are considered “must wins” for a three-day eventer to say they are at the pinnacle of their sport. As with the dressage, cross-country is about trying to score zero points (that is, make no mistakes to incur demerits). The usual demerit points in the cross-country phase are, 20 points for a horse refusing a jump or running out of the obstacle area, without jumping the obstacle. In addition to this, the cross-country is a timed event and demerit points are added to the horse’s total if they fail to complete the course, in under the specified time, commonly, this is 0.4 of a penalty point per second over the optimum time.
The show-jumping phase of the event is usually held the following day from the cross-country and before any horse is allowed to compete in this phase, they must pass a thorough veterinary inspection to ensure they have not been damaged in any way by the gruelling cross-country phase. Like all show-jumping events, faults are awarded for fences knocked down (4 faults), 1st refusal/disobedience (4 faults), 2nd refusal/disobedience or fall of horse/rider (Elimination), and time performance (1 penalty for every second over the optimum time).
Finally, after completion of the three stamina-sucking events a horse and rider, with the least number of demerit points over the course of the event, can be declared the winner and proud owner of the title; “the best equine athlete of the event”. One reason why this event is so popular as a sporting contest is that it is still one of the few sports where women and men compete alongside each other as equals. Many of the top eventers in the world are female.
Do, please, take a look at my exciting novel, Spirit of Prophecy, set in the exciting world of three-day-eventing. You can find out much more about it, here, on my website. http://bit.ly/2LeRJ84
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