Alternative sports profile episode 3: Three day eventing

Posted in sport on July 12, 2012

We don’t quite know how it’s happened but it has….London 2012 is only 15 days away and it’s time for another look into lesser known Olympic sports. This week it’s the turn of 3 Day Eventing, so we’ll make sure you know your Piaffes from your half passes and your canters from your triple combinations ready for the start of the games.

Equestrian sports have been in all but three of the modern Olympics and come in the form of 3 disciplines: Dressage, Showjumping and Cross-country. All of the disciplines have their own medals attached to them as well as contributing towards the final team eventing medals.

Each event is designed to test the ability of the rider to control the horse in different ways:


At a glance: over the course of 3 rounds, rider and horse perform a pre-set (apart from free-style final round set to music) routine of movements with a panel of judges scoring on accuracy of movement, calmness, suppleness and flexibility.

The best horse and riders will: Move in perfect harmony with subtle, often unseen, communication between the two.


Self Carriage: Horse moving in balance without support of the reigns.

Piaffe: Trotting movement on the spot.

Half-pass: When a Horse moves forwards and sideways and leans towards direction of travel.

Freestyle Dressage


At a glance: Horse and rider must negotiate 15 obstacles in 3 rounds of competition, with time faults given for infringements such as refusals, knocking down fences, tapping the fences and exceeding the time limit.

The best horse and riders will: Find the best angle of approach possible for each jump to ensure course completed in the minimum amount of time. Cutting too fine an angle will mean that the horse can’t complete the jump; taking too wide an angle will waste precious seconds.


Run-out: when a horse runs around the jump instead of jumping the fence.

Verticals: where poles are place on top of each to form a jump.

Oxer (or spread): two verticals close to each other to make the jump longer.

Hogsbacks: type of spread fence with 3 rails and the tallest one in the centre.

Jump size equivalent: Range Rover (2.2m wide x 1.6 metres tall)

Cross Country

At a glance: Takes place on all 3 days of the event and sees horse and riders tackle 45 jumps (which range from ditches to fences and combinations of the two) over 6 km in an attempt to get round the course in the quickest time. Seconds are knocked off for not completing jumps.

The best horse and riders will: Judge the speed right, accelerating where possible and showing more caution during challenging sections of the course  to avoid refusals or falls.


Triple combination: three jumps in quick succession with just a few strides in between.

Lighting: horses eyes do not adapt quickly to changes in light, so riders must judge the best time to accelerate when coming out of the shadows or covered areas.

Distractors: parts of the course, such as bight coloured flowers, designed to take the attention of the horse.

Jump size equivalent: Medium sized garden shed, lengthways! (3.6m wide x 1.8m high)

Action from Greenwich Park with the City in the background

All of the rounds (apart from the final showjumping round) contribute to the team event, and each country can enter up to 5 riders. The three lowest scores will then count towards the team total and decide who wins the 3 day eventing gold.

Equestrianism has historically been a sport that Great Britain has excelled in, claiming 27 medals in total. The class of 2012 are in high spirits after a successful world championships last year, and will be aiming for at least 3 medals. Look out for Laura Bechtolsheimer as she attempts to win Great Britain’s first medal in the individual Dressage event.

Getting into Equestrianism: It’s now easier than ever to get into horse riding with lots of great organisations making it available to all. Stay tuned for upmysport to help you find and book horse riding lessons, add your email here and we’ll let you know as soon as horse riding instructors are live on the site. In the meantime to find more information and to find out your local equestrian centre you can head to the association of British riding schools website here.

Olympic small talk fact: Civillians were first allowed to compete in Olympic Equestrian events at the 1952 games, until then only commissioned military officers were eligible compete.

Come back next week for another guide to alternative Olympic sports. If you have a sport you would like us to cover please let us know!