How to Watch Eventing
Dressage (Day 1) - Ballet on horseback. The most subjective part of the competition: judges assess suppleness, skill and accuracy as the horse and rider work through a series of set manoeuvres in a small arena.
Watch how responsive and bright the horse is, how accurate, athletic and obedient. (Riders dress: top hat and tails or formal jacket)
Endurance (Day 2) - Stamina, Courage and Ability. All of which can make for exciting viewing.
Choose a feature fence on the course and watch the different ways the horse and rider can go. Some with varying results. A good viewing point on the course is the main arena as you can see the water jump, which can provide for some exciting watching and is also a central viewing point for the rest of the course.
The horse and rider combination must pass between the red (right) and white (left) flags, more difficult fences have easier routes to take but mean a more time consuming option for the combination which can encure penalties if they do not make the extra time up on the course.
Watch how the rider will try and maintain a steady rhythm of pace but also ensuring that they also have the right stride going into a fence as a wrong judgment can lead to a run off or even a fall.
The riders have a more informal choice of attire on the cross-country phase where they get to choose their own choice of colorful shirt, which can make them easily identifiable to the crowd.
Show Jumping (Day 3) - This is carried out in the main arena and tests how easily the horse and rider bounce back to top performance after the exertions of Cross Country Day.
Watch how the riders shorten the stride going into a difficult fence and the horse rounds the back over the fence - not easy on a tired horse. (Riders dress: Formal jacket and breeches).
Throughout the event, the horse is checked by a panel of experts and veterinary surgeons to ensure that all the horses remain sound. Most of the horses are thoroughbreds bred for racing, or a thoroughbred cross. A calm temperament must go with the ability to cover large distances at speed. Work for the competing horses started months ago to achieve their peak fitness, with one-day competitions during the spring adding to the preparation.
There are three different classes of ability starting with the CIC* which is the first steeping stone for horses and riders to gain the experience and qualifications needed to then move up the grades. The CCI** is the next step up which means a more demanding dressage test, longer distances and higher fences in both the cross country phase and the show jumping.
The CCI*** is the elite level in New Zealand with competitors only having one step up left to achieve which is the CCI**** or CIC**** which is the same level as the Olympics and world games. The CCI*** competion is very demanding of both the horse and rider and leaves little room for error if the combination wish to be successful.
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