Eventing in the UAE is growing and with more venues to hold one day events next season it is sure to gain even more popularity. Currently there are 2 locations for competitions, Desert Palm and Emirates Equestrian Centre. The 2013 Eventing season culminates with the Spinney’s Cup on 15 March.
What is Eventing?
Eventing is best described as an equestrian triathlon. Comprised of three phases, the sport tests a rider’s skill more completely than any other.
Dressage, the first phase, shows the horse’s and rider’s ability to perform a series of prescribed classical movements on the flat in an enclosed arena. The second phase, cross-country, involves the horse and rider galloping over natural terrain, jumping a variety of fixed obstacles along the way. In the final phase of show jumping, horse and rider jump a series of stadium fences in an enclosed arena.
The rider accumulates penalty points in each phase based on varying factors and the rider with the lowest amount of points at the end of the three phases takes home top honors. The sport evolved from a military contest to an Olympic competition. It is an exciting sport attracting interest from all levels of sports enthusiasts, from weekend hobby riders to professional international stars.
The dressage phase begins every eventing competition. In French, dressage means “training.” Originally designed to show the horse’s ability to perform intricate movements on the parade involved with reviewing troops, today the dressage test comprises a set series of movements performed in an enclosed arena. Precision, smoothness, suppleness, and complete obedience show off the horse’s obedience. Ideally the horse appears to perform the test’s movents on its own accord, working in harmony with its rider. The test is scored on each movement with the overall harmony and precision of the test taken into consideration.
The purpose of the dressage test is to demonstrate the level of communication between the horse and rider to and displaying the power and grace required to perform each movement with balance, rhythm, and suppleness. Due to the demands of the sport, the eventing horse is extremely fit, and only strong and tactful riders possess the skills needed to harness and direct that energy into a both polished and powerful performance.
The cross-country test typically takes place on the second day of competition. The object of this test is to prove the speed, endurance, and jumping ability of the horse over varied terrain and obstacles. In order to accomplish this task, the horse and rider must be at peak condition. The horse must be brave and obedient, and the rider must use knowledge of pace in order to expend only as much of the horse’s energy as necessary, if they expect to finish well.
Cross-country courses require horses and riders to be bold and smart, while testing their physical stamina. The aim of each horse and rider combination is to complete the course on time and with as few penalties as possible. Penalties can be accrued through jumping errors (horse refuses or runs out at an obstacle, rider falls off on course, etc.) or by exceeding the optimum time allowed.
Of the three phases of competition, the cross-country phase is usually the most appealing to spectators and riders alike. It is the ultimate challenge to prepare a horse for this rigorous test. Unlike other sports, where only the human will and body are pitted against the clock, in eventing, two minds and bodies work as one.
The third and final test takes place in the show jumping arena. A show jumping course comprises a series of colored fences usually made up of lightweight rails that are easily knocked down. The test takes place in an enclosed ring and the course must be negotiated in order for the horse and rider to successfully complete the event. This final phase tests the stamina and recovery of the horse after the endurance phase and shows that it is fit enough to continue work.
In the words of the FEI rule book, “The test on the third day is not an ordinary show jumping competition…Its sole object is to demonstrate that, after a severe test of endurance, the horses have retained the suppleness, energy and obedience necessary for them to continue in service.”
The show jumping course requires very exact riding; it consists of between 12 and 15 show jumping obstacles, which normally include at least one combination, two spread fences, and in some cases a ditch.
The courses are designed to test the horse’s and rider’s ability to negotiate a variety of fences of differing heights, widths, and technicality. This requires the horse to be balanced and supple for tight turns and short distances between fences. He must be able to lengthen or shorten his stride in an instant. Therefore, the rider must know exactly where he is on the approach to a fence, with an obedient horse that will respond to his commands. For the spectator, this sport is both exciting and breathtaking to watch, as just one single rail knocked down can change the final standings dramatically.
The scores for eventing are cumulative, each phase is added together to get the final score. The rider with the lowest score (fewest penalty points) at the end of the competition is declared the winner!