A basic guide to eventing – Blog by Ella Vincent

Seeing as it's one of my early blogs for Eqclusive, I thought I'd tell you all a bit about what I love the most - eventing. It's going to be a simple explanation about what eventing is and how you can get involved.

Training for the cross country phase of eventing.


The basics

The aim of eventing is to finish on the lowest amount of penalties possible - the lowest wins. There are lots of different things that you get penalties for, which I'm going to go into below. There are three phases in eventing, which, at the lower levels, run all on the same day - dressage, show jumping and cross country. This makes it a very tiring but exhilarating day.

.Unless it's an international competition or championship, the order the riders compete in isn't dependent on your score so doesn't change throughout the day – you stay in the same order you were in for the first phase.

At BE (British Eventing) competitions, there are six main levels:

  • BE80(T) - 'T' stands for training
  • BE90
  • BE100
  • Novice
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

The numbers in the first three classes (e.g: BE90) refer to the height of the jumps in the class (BE90 = 90cm obstacles).

Thereafter, Novice has a maximum height for show jumping at 1.15m, and the maximum height for XC is 1.10m, Intermediate 1.25m SJ and 1.15m XC, Advanced, 1.30m SJ and 1.20m XC.


In the dressage phase, you perform a test as you would at a normal dressage competition on a 20 x 40 grass arena, or in a long arena for international competitions. These tests consist of walk, trot and canter, with more complex movements added in as you progress up the levels. The only real difference between 'normal dressage' and eventing dressage is that instead of getting a percentage of marks you did get, you get a penalty of the percentage of marks you didn't get. For example, in a conventional dressage test I might get a score of 68%, but for eventing, you'd get a score of 32 penalties.

You can also receive penalties for using your voice or making an error of course. Leaving the arena with all four of the horse's feet, making three errors of course or using a schooling whip in the test results in elimination. There are a few other reasons you can be penalised in this phase, you can find out about these in the BE rule book.

Show jumping

In eventing, you jump a course of (approximately) 8-15 knock-able fences, consisting of doubles, oxers, uprights and trebles, depending on what level you're competing at.  You get 4 faults for a refusal, circle, step back before a fence, or if you knock down a fence. You also receive time faults if you go over the optimum time, which is 1 penalty per second for BE events. This is the 2nd phase in an ODE, the order between Show jumping and Cross Country is only reversed at International or three-day events.

You can be eliminated for having three 'disobediences', having a horse fall, jumping obstacles in the wrong order or making an error of course. The good news is, if you fall off once, you only receive 8 faults!

As above, there are other ways you can receive penalties, so be sure to check the rule book that applies to the competition you're going to.


This phase is a longer course, of about 15 - 20 solid, natural looking fences, which tests the horse's bravery and stamina. There is an optimum time which is announced at the event – this is different for each level. Riders are now permitted to wear stopwatches at the lower levels in BE competitions, so you can see how close you are to getting the 'optimum time'. If you finish slower or faster than the optimum time bracket, you receive  0.4 penalties per second that you're over or under the time. This optimum time increases as you progress up the level.

For a refusal cross country (often abbreviated to XC) you receive 20 penalties. You are eliminated after two rider falls, three refusals on course or if you jump the wrong fence or obstacle, as well as other factors which are found on the British Eventing website.

How can I start eventing?

The first place I'd send you if you're interested in Eventing in the UK would be the BE website. There you can become a member, enter your first competition or buy a "Go BE" package, which contains everything you need to get started in eventing competitions and training. There are lots of unaffiliated events around also, so keep an eye out in your local area. It can be a good idea to volunteer at a local event – you can learn a lot and it is often a good day out.

My next blog post will give you some guidance and tips for your first event, so keep your eyes out for my next article.

By Ella Vincent. I am very generously supported by Eqclusive. I am an aspiring event rider who is also a keen blogger - you can read my articles at www.eveventing.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.