Eventing Explained: A Spectator's Guide to The Fork

Mar 19, 2019 - 2:41 PM



We’re so excited to welcome back The Fork presented by Lucky Clay’s Farm on April 4th-7th!

Want to be a part of the action, but not sure what “eventing” entails? Don’t worry! We have you covered with an overall description of the three events that comprise the thrilling equestrian discipline of eventing.


©Shannon Brinkman Photography


The best way to describe eventing is a triathlon of equestrian sport, which includes three phases – dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. Horse and rider have to be in tip-top shape to complete all three phases over the course three days – one event per day.


A fun fact you may not know is that eventing is also one of the few Olympic sports where men and women compete on equal terms. Now that you know the overall concept, let’s dive into what each event entails… and what you’ll get to see when The Fork come to Tryon!


1. Dressage

Dressage is a test of the horse and rider’s connection and communication with each other. The pair will complete a pre-determined pattern in an enclosed arena, and their movements will look like they’re dancing with each other! Each specific “movement” is judged on a 0-10 basis with 0 being the worst and 10 being the best. The letters around the perimeter of the arena are markers as to where the specific movements should take place. There is no jumping involved with dressage, just walking, trotting, cantering, and more advanced moves depending on the pair’s experience level.




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Dressage is meant to look effortless and beautiful while the horse moves throughout the pattern.


2. Cross Country

Cross Country is exactly what it sounds like – horse and rider trek across the country-side while jumping impressive natural obstacles such as ditches, water, banks, and drop-down jumps. Seriously – these jumps are incredible! The course must be completed at a gallop because there is a time limit for completion. The course consists of 15-25 fences for lower levels and 30-40 fences for upper levels and the track is usually two to four miles long.






Overall, cross country is for those with no fear and is incredibly fun to watch!


3. Show Jumping

Now we are on to the third phase of eventing – show jumping. Show jumping is what you have watched if you have ever come to one our favorite Saturday Night Lights events, so you may have already experienced watching a jumper class!






Show jumping is when the horse and rider combination compete in an arena over a course with colorful rails that are easily knocked down. The objective is to not knock any rails down, and complete the course as quickly as possible within the time allowed. This phase can be tricky for horses, because they have just completed the cross country phase the day before. Jumps come down with just a small tap, so it is a test of the horse and rider’s precision and connection!


4. Scoring

Throughout the event, each phase  is scored, and penalties carry over from each day’s round. For example, if you have penalties in dressage, that will carry over into cross country and show jumping. The goal is to accumulate as few faults as possible over the three days. The horse and rider who have the least penalties at the end of the competition will bring home the blue ribbon!


Photo courtesy of USEA


Grab your friends and family and come watch because all equestrian competition is free and open to the public for spectating!  We’ll see you soon!

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