Three-day eventing is one of the most challenging events in the world of sports. It is a supreme test of the relationship between horse and rider, the agility, strength and endurance of the pair, and their courage and boldness under pressure. Not only is a three-day event physically draining, but mentally taxing as well. A rider must known his courses well and be able to pace himself and his horse in order to succeed. The precision and grace required equate to that of a world-class ballerina, while at the same time the horse and rider pair must exhibit the daring of the most extreme sports.
What is three-day eventing? What makes it so challenging, and what are the premier prizes that riders aspire to win? Three-day eventing is made up of three separate events that take place over a three-day period.
The first element of the event is the dressage test. The dressage test is a specific routine that the horse and rider must execute as flawlessly as possible. Tests are designed to include different gaits and movements of the horse. Riders perform in a ring with letters to make certain locations in the ring. Each step of the routine must be performed at a certain location and the test must be done as prescribed. Experienced judges and riders know exactly what to look for during a dressage test. This section of the three-day event tests the beauty of the movement and the obedience of the horse to the rider.
The second day consists of the cross-country jumping element. A cross-country course is made up of permanent obstacles, such as brick walls, sturdy wooden fences, and water-filled ditches. Prior to the course the rider will walk through the obstacles, but the horse will not have any prior experience with the course. Many see this event as the crux of the three-day, as the trust of the horse to the rider is most essential during this element. A rider’s knowledge of pace, the speed and stamina of the horse, and the animal’s obedience are put to the test on the course.
The jumping test takes place on the third day. This event takes place in an arena or stadium rather than a more natural outdoor course like cross-country. Obstacles in the arena are not solid and will fall down if not jumped cleanly. The most important aspect of the jumping test is that the horse clears each of the jumps. If a horse and rider are able to complete the course without hitting or knocking down any rails, this is said to be a clean round.
Winners are chosen by tallying up the scores from each of the three days. In the Americas, the most important event on the equestrian scene is the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event which takes place annually in April. This is the only event in the Americas that is a four star event. Four star events are the same level of competition that the World Championships and the Olympic Games are. The prize for the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event is $200,000 plus a Rolex watch.
An even greater aspiration for a rider is to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing. To win this $250,000 prize, the rider must win three separate events. The first is the event in Kentucky, followed by two world-class events in England in May and September. To win all three consecutively warrants winning the Rolex Grand Slam award. So far, this feat has only been achieved once in 2003.
Watch the next Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event on April 23-26 2009 to see the incredible athletic prowess of both horse and rider.