History of Eventing

In Germany, this equestrian sport is still called the "Militaire," under which name it was first introduced at the Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1912. The tests of this newly organized equestrian competition were patterned after the training and testing of military chargers — precision, elegance, and obedience on the parade ground; stamina, versatility and courage on marches and in battle; cross-country jumping ability and endurance in traveling great distances over difficult terrain and formidable obstacles in the relaying of important dispatches; and jumping ability in the arena to prove the horse's fitness to remain in service.

Spread over consecutive days, it was a complete test for the Army horse, and in fact only Army officers on active duty were allowed to compete in the first Olympic Three-Day Event, and they had to be mounted on military chargers.

At the Paris Olympics of 1924, the format of the competition as it is known today in the classic, or long, format was established — a Dressage Test on the first day; an Endurance Test on the second day, including a short Roads and Tracks (Phase A), followed immediately by a Steeplechase (Phase B), which in turn was followed immediately by a long Roads and Tracks (Phase C). A compulsory halt (10 minutes today) was instituted after Phase C for a veterinary examination, after which the competitor began Phase D, the Cross-Country. In Paris there was an additional Phase E on the second day, a 1 1/4 mile run-in on the flat after the Cross-Country, but today this phase is no longer included. The third and final day was the show jumping test. As of 1924, the Three-Day Event was open to civilians, but noncommissioned Army officers were not allowed to take part in Olympic competition until 1956, and women riders not until 1964.

Because the competition took place over three days, the English coined the descriptive term "Three-Day Event," and the sport of Eventing became firmly entrenched in the equestrian activities of Great Britain. The Americans adopted the English terminology and developed a general term, "combined training," for this activity that is a combination of disciplines and training methods in the development of a usable riding horse.

The sport has various levels of proficiency, and modifications have been made at the lower levels to enable even the novice horse and rider with a basic background of sound horsemanship and jumping ability to participate. "Horse Trials" present the core of the Three-Day Event — Dressage, Cross-Country and Show Jumping — usually taking place over one or two days. The Olympic Three-Day Event and the World Three-Day Event Championships, however, require the most advanced abilities of horse and rider and present these in a showcase of international team and individual representatives competing for their home country's honor and prestige, as well as individual achievement.

It is the French, with their musical and literal language, who have provided the term that is most apropos of the essence of the sport today. Known as the Concours Complet d'Equitation, or "complete equestrian competition," this in fact is what the Three-Day Event is: a comprehensive test of all-around horsemanship of the rider and ability of the horse.

The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international equestrian federation that governs the sport, has laid down exact rules that must be followed at all international events and states that the object of the competition is to "show the rider's spirit, boldness, and perfect knowledge of his horse's paces and their use across country, and to show the condition, handiness, courage, jumping ability, stamina, and speed of the well trained horse."
In 2005, a new format was introduced into the sport. Known as the "without Steeplechase" format, or the short format, only the Cross-Country Test is held on the second competition day. Today all FEI championships are held in the short format, although at the One Star level (the first level of international competition), the long format continues to be used to test the proper development and training of the Event horse.