Equestrian 101: Competition format

Equestrian 101: Competition format
Posted at 10:20 AM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 14:00:57-04

Jumping competition format

Jumping competition is comprised of three events and takes place over the course of four days.

  • The first individual qualifying competition: Serving as a qualifier for the final individual competition, the 12-obstacle competition also determines the starting order of the team competition (the score of the three best riders from each team are added together. The team with the least amount of penalties from this competition start last in team competition).
  • Team jumping Competition: Competition takes place over the course of two days with a possible jump-off. The first and second rounds also count toward individual qualifying competitions. All riders will compete in the first round. In the second round, only the top 8 teams and all individual riders compete. Each team's three best scores (the lowest score is dropped) from each round will be tallied to establish the team score. Medals are awarded for the combined results of the first two rounds. If two or more teams are tied, the winner will be decided in a jump-off.
  • The final individual jumping competition: Competition consists of two rounds with a possible jump-off with the combination of the penalties incurred in each determining the final score. No more than three riders from the same country may compete in the individual final. If four riders from the same nation qualify, its Chef d'Equipe decides which three riders compete in the final rounds.

    The riders' scores from the qualifying rounds will not be carried over to the final rounds. After the third qualifying round, the 35 highest-ranked riders advance to the first of the two final rounds, called Round A. Following the completion of the first final round, the top 20 riders advance to the second round of the finals, Round B.

  • Starting Order: The starting order of the first and second qualifying rounds is determined by a draw. In the second round all riders compete in reverse order of penalties received in the first round. In the final round, the starting order for Round A is determined according to the reverse order of penalties earned over the three qualifying competitions. The starting order for Round B is determined according to whom had the most faults in Round A.

Dressage competition format

Taking place over the course of two days, there are three phases to dressage competition that include both team and individual events.

  • Grand Prix (team competition and first individual qualifier): Each horse and rider entered in the team competition will perform in the Grand Prix test, which includes 38 compulsory movements and four collective marks. The top eight individual rider-horse combinations plus all athletes from the top six teams qualify for the individual competition. 
  • Grand Prix Special (second individual qualifier): The Grand Prix Special is a slightly shorter and more concentrated version of the Grand Prix test. If all riders on a team qualify, they can all participate in the individual competition. After the Grand Prix Special, medals are awarded in the team dressage event. The team score is determined by adding together the three best total scores from the Grand Prix and Grand Prix special.
  • Grand Prix Level Freestyle Test (individual final): The top 18 riders from the Grand Prix Special advance to the Grand Prix Freestyle. In the Grand Prix Freestyle, the rider and horse perform an original composition of Grand Prix movements set to music. A maximum of three riders from a team may participate. The winner is determined by the highest total percentage in the Grand Prix Freestyle.

Eventing Competition Format

Commonly referred to as "three day eventing," competition actually takes spans four days. The team and individual eventing competitions, which are competed at the same time, follow this schedule:

  • Dressage
  • Cross country
  • First jumping event to determine the team placings
  • Second jumping event to determine the individual placings

Each rider must complete each phase of the competition aboard his or her same horse. The 25 best riders in the team competition qualify to compete in the individual jumping event, which will determine the final individual standings. A maximum of three riders per nation are allowed to participate in the individual final. The riders' scores from the previous events are carried over to the individual jumping competition to determine the final placings.

  • Dressage: Taking place over two days (although each rider will only compete once), the dressage test follows the same format as when dressage is contested as its own medal event, but on a lesser scale. In eventing's dressage phase, the three judges rate riders on 21 movements.
  • Cross country: Eventing's second test is a cross-country competition. Competitors' start times are staggered, with a rider departing every three to four minutes. During the event the horses gallop over natural country terrain, contending with obstacles of logs, stonewalls, water, banks and ditches. The object of the phase is to test the strength, courage and condition of the horse and rider.
  • Jumping: Competed on the final day of competition, the purpose of the show jumping portion of the three-day event is to demonstrate the horse's energy and obedience after the cross-country test. Eventing's individual jumping and team jumping events take place on the same day, with the individual event competed last.