Eventing Competition Levels Explained

Eventing competition is a thrilling equestrian sport that tests the skills and abilities of both horse and rider across three challenging disciplines: dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the various levels of eventing competition, from the entry-level Beginner Novice to the pinnacle of the sport at the Advanced level. Each level presents unique challenges, from the complexity of the dressage test to the height and technicality of the jumps in the show jumping course. We will also explore the specific requirements and scoring systems for each level, shedding light on the nuances that differentiate them. Whether you’re a seasoned eventing competitor or a curious enthusiast, this article will provide valuable insights into the exciting world of eventing competition.

Key Takeaways:

  • Eventing competition is a three-phase equestrian sport that combines dressage, cross-country, and show jumping.
  • There are six levels of eventing competition: Beginner Novice, Novice, Training, Preliminary, Intermediate, and Advanced.
  • Each level has specific requirements for dressage, cross-country, and show jumping, and is scored based on dressage, cross-country, and show jumping performance.
  • What Is Eventing Competition?

    Eventing competition, also known as horse trials, is a comprehensive equestrian sport that combines the disciplines of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping to test the horse and rider’s versatility, agility, and endurance on a challenging course.

    This demanding sport requires top-notch horsemanship, as riders must excel in each discipline to achieve success. The three phases of eventing showcase the athleticism and partnership between horse and rider, demanding precise communication and trust.

    Dressage demonstrates the horse’s elegance and obedience, while cross-country tests their bravery and stamina over natural obstacles. Show jumping challenges their precision and agility over a series of brightly colored fences. The competitive nature of eventing encourages participants to constantly strive for improvement, adding an element of excitement and unpredictability to each event.

    What Are The Levels Of Eventing Competition?

    Eventing competition encompasses several distinct levels, each presenting increasing challenges and complexities for participants, including Beginner Novice, Novice, Training, Preliminary, Intermediate, and Advanced, catering to riders of varying competencies and experiences.

    Beginner Novice

    Beginner Novice serves as an introductory level in eventing competition, offering riders the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the sport’s disciplines of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping in a supportive and educational environment.

    As an entry point for new participants, the Beginner Novice level plays a crucial role in nurturing a love for the sport and creating a solid foundation for their future progression. It provides a gentle introduction to the diverse requirements of eventing, allowing riders to build confidence and develop essential skills. This level encourages a positive and inclusive atmosphere, where riders can learn from each other and grow together, fostering a sense of camaraderie within the community.

    The Beginner Novice level focuses on building a strong understanding of the fundamentals, emphasizing safety, sportsmanship, and respect for the horse, creating a nurturing environment that promotes a lifelong passion for eventing.


    Novice stands as an intermediate level in eventing competition, requiring riders to demonstrate enhanced skills and understanding of the sport’s disciplines, including dressage, cross-country, and show jumping, as they progress in their competitive journey.

    Transitioning to the Novice level marks a significant step for riders who have honed their abilities at the Beginner Novice stage. Here, they are challenged with more complex course designs and higher jumps, demanding greater precision and control in their riding. The Novices are also expected to exhibit improved balance and coordination in the dressage phase, executing movements with increased finesse and accuracy.

    As riders advance through the Novice level, the competition intensifies, and they are required to master the technical aspects of cross-country riding, navigating challenging terrains and obstacles while maintaining pace and rhythm. In show jumping, they must demonstrate refined skills in jumping higher fences with agility and confidence, showcasing their progression in the sport.


    The Training level in eventing competition serves as a preparatory stage, where riders refine their skills and techniques in dressage, cross-country, and show jumping, laying the groundwork for higher levels of competition.

    At this stage, riders focus on mastering the fundamentals of each discipline, honing their ability to execute precise movements in dressage, navigate challenging terrain in cross-country, and demonstrate agility and control in show jumping. The emphasis is on developing a strong foundation of riding proficiency and understanding the nuances of each eventing discipline. Riders gradually build their competitive readiness, learning to strategize and adapt to varying course complexities and performance pressures.


    Preliminary represents an advanced level in eventing competition, demanding a higher degree of precision, athleticism, and strategic finesse from riders across the dressage, cross-country, and show jumping disciplines.

    Riders at this stage must demonstrate exceptional control and harmony with their horses, as they tackle more complex combinations and obstacles. The heightened challenges of the Preliminary level require riders to possess a deep understanding of their equine partners, as well as the ability to navigate technical courses with agility and confidence. This level marks a significant progression from the Training stage, where riders begin to refine their skills and develop the strength and proficiency needed to excel at the demanding tasks set forth in the Preliminary competition.


    The Intermediate level in eventing competition signifies a demanding stage for riders, where they are tasked with showcasing exceptional proficiency and composure in the dressage, cross-country, and show jumping components of the sport.

    At this level, riders must demonstrate advanced technical skills and mental fortitude to navigate the complex cross-country courses, which often include challenging combinations and difficult terrain.

    The dressage phase at this level necessitates a high degree of precision and finesse, demanding a cohesive partnership between horse and rider.

    The show jumping component of Intermediate level requires riders to exhibit agility and control as they maneuver their horses through a series of intricately designed courses, testing their ability to quickly assess and respond to various jumping challenges.


    The Advanced level in eventing competition represents the pinnacle of the sport, where riders exhibit exceptional mastery, athleticism, and strategic acumen in the rigorous disciplines of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping, symbolizing the culmination of their competitive prowess.

    At this level, elite riders must demonstrate an unparalleled level of precision, strength, and communication with their equine partners. The Advanced courses are designed to test the limits of both horse and rider, demanding utmost focus and dedication. With each phase presenting its unique challenges, from the grace and precision of dressage to the daring endurance and strategy of cross-country, and the technical finesse of show jumping, the Advanced level is the ultimate challenge for dedicated riders who seek to push themselves to the zenith of their abilities.

    What Are The Requirements For Each Level?

    Each level in eventing competition imposes specific requirements on riders, encompassing distinct criteria for the dressage test, cross-country course, and show jumping course, tailored to the complexities and challenges of the respective levels.

    Dressage Test

    The dressage test for each level in eventing competition evaluates the precision, movements, and obedience of the horse and rider partnership, reflecting the specific technical and artistic demands corresponding to the respective levels.

    At the lower levels, such as Introductory and Training, the focus is on basic movements and transitions, with an emphasis on rhythm, relaxation, and straightness. As the levels progress to First, Second, and Third, the complexity of the movements increases, requiring greater engagement, balance, and suppleness from the horse. Moving to Fourth level and above, the test includes advanced movements like half-pass, pirouettes, and changes of lead, demanding a high degree of precision, impulsion, and collection.

    Cross-Country Course

    The cross-country course at each level in eventing competition presents a varied terrain with strategically positioned obstacles, challenging riders to showcase their horse’s athleticism, endurance, and speed as they navigate the intricacies of the course.

    The terrain of the cross-country course can range from open fields to wooded areas, creating an ever-changing landscape that demands adaptability from both horse and rider. The placement and design of obstacles such as ditches, water complexes, and challenging combinations require careful planning and precise execution.

    Riders must analyze the course to determine the optimal approach, considering factors such as speed, balance, and the horse’s ability to clear jumps. The strategic intricacies of the course involve making split-second decisions to adjust their ride based on the terrain and the nature of each obstacle.

    Show Jumping Course

    The show jumping course at each level in eventing competition assesses the horse and rider’s agility, technique, and precision as they navigate a series of obstacles within an arena, reflecting the specific demands and complexities tied to the respective levels.

    The introductory levels like Beginner Novice and Novice typically feature straightforward lines and combinations, allowing newer riders and horses to gain confidence and experience in navigating jumps and turns.

    At the higher levels such as Intermediate and Advanced, the complexity intensifies with technical challenges such as tight turns, tricky distances, and combinations that require exceptional precision and agility from both the horse and rider.

    The courses are designed to test the technique of the horse and rider pair, with varying fence heights, spreads, and shapes, demanding the ability to adjust stride length and maintain balance throughout the course.

    The strategic use of related technical terms such as related distances, turning exercises, and related challenges enhance the overall experience for both participants and spectators alike, highlighting the intricacies and skill required in show jumping competitions at different levels.

    What Are The Scoring Systems For Each Level?

    The scoring systems for each level in eventing competition encompass distinct evaluation criteria for the dressage, cross-country, and show jumping phases, reflecting the diverse emphasis on technical precision, athleticism, and performance standards within the respective levels.

    Dressage Scoring

    The dressage scoring at each level in eventing competition assesses the horse and rider’s execution of movements, rhythm, and harmony, with tailored evaluation criteria aligning with the technical and artistic demands of the respective levels.

    For instance, at the lower levels, emphasis is placed on the fundamental aspects such as regularity of paces, willingness of the horse, and rider’s position and effectiveness of aids. As the levels progress, the judging becomes more intricate, with a focus on the precision of transitions, suppleness, engagement, and straightness.

    The judges also consider the overall picture of the test, evaluating the harmony between the horse and rider as they move through the prescribed patterns. This overall impression plays a significant role in determining the final score.

    Cross-Country Scoring

    The cross-country scoring for each level in eventing competition evaluates the horse and rider’s performance over a varied terrain and obstacles, assessing speed, endurance, and successful navigation of the course, in accordance with the unique challenges of the respective levels.

    It’s fascinating how these challenges are tailored to each level, ensuring that the competition tests the abilities of both the horse and rider. Speed is crucial, as it reflects the level of agility and control over the terrain. Endurance plays a vital role, showcasing the physical and mental strength of both the horse and rider as they tackle the demanding course. Successful navigation through obstacles demonstrates the precision and trust between the horse and rider, forming a crucial aspect of the scoring process.

    Show Jumping Scoring

    The show jumping scoring at each level in eventing competition assesses the horse and rider’s technique, agility, and precision in navigating a series of obstacles within an arena, aligning with the specific performance standards and demands of the respective levels.

    At each level, the show jumping scoring involves detailed evaluation criteria. For beginners, emphasis is placed on building foundational skills, including correct riding posture, balance, and control. As riders progress to higher levels, the focus shifts to fluidity in movement, accurate approach to jumps, and strategic decision-making. The judges observe the horse and rider’s synchronization, confidence in tackling the course, and ability to adjust pace and stride lengths. Achieving optimal scores requires a harmonious blend of technical mastery, adaptability, and powerful yet controlled execution. Those who achieve this balance earn higher scores, reflecting their mastery of the sport’s intricacies.

    What Are The Differences Between Levels?

    The differences between levels in eventing competition encompass variations in the difficulty of the cross-country course, the height of jumps, the complexity of the dressage test, and the imposition of time limits, reflecting the progressive challenges and standards associated with each level.

    Difficulty of Cross-Country Course

    The difficulty of the cross-country course intensifies across levels in eventing competition, featuring varied terrains, strategically positioned obstacles, and escalating technicality that challenge riders and horses at higher competitive stages.

    At the lower levels of competition, the terrain may be less challenging, with more gradual slopes and open fields. As the levels progress, the courses become more demanding, incorporating steep hills, dense woods, and water elements to test the riders’ adaptability and horses’ agility.

    The obstacles at higher levels are strategically placed to require precise timing, balance, and control, often involving combinations and related distances that necessitate quick thinking and seamless execution. The technicality of the courses increases, with intricate questions designed to assess the partnership between the rider and horse, putting their communication and trust to the ultimate test.

    Height of Jumps

    The height of jumps increases with the progression of levels in eventing competition, featuring a variety of vertical, spread, and combination obstacles that demand heightened athleticism and precision from riders and horses at advanced competitive tiers.

    Eventing courses at higher levels often include technical challenges such as water jumps, ditches, banks, and skinnies, presenting riders and horses with the need to navigate through a diverse range of obstacles with varying heights and widths. The heightened technical demands at advanced levels require a deep understanding of horse and rider biomechanics, as well as strategic riding techniques to tackle the complex challenges posed by the course design.

    Complexity of Dressage Test

    The complexity of the dressage test increases across levels in eventing competition, incorporating more intricate movements, patterns, and obedience requirements that elevate the technical and artistic standards for riders and horses at higher competitive levels.

    At the introductory level, riders are expected to execute basic movements such as circles, serpentines, and transitions. As the competition progresses to the intermediate level, the demands become more challenging, incorporating complex lateral movements, changes of lead, and collection.

    Advanced dressage tests assemble a symphony of precision and grace, showcasing the highest level of harmony between rider and horse, where elements like extended trot, piaffe, and passage are flawlessly executed with finesse and elegance. It requires years of dedicated training and a deep understanding of equine biomechanics to excel at this pinnacle of dressage.

    Time Limits

    The imposition of time limits varies across levels in eventing competition, impacting the cross-country and show jumping phases, with penalties for exceeding or failing to meet the prescribed time constraints, adding an additional dimension of strategic urgency and precision as riders advance through the levels.

    At the lower levels, such as Introductory and Beginner Novice, the time limits are more forgiving, allowing riders to focus on successfully completing the course while still aiming to stay within the given time frame. As competitors progress to the higher levels, notably Training, Preliminary, and Advanced, the time constraints become ever more critical. Exceeding the given time incurs penalties that can significantly impact a rider’s overall score, often leading to changes in the rankings.

    Strategically, riders need to find the delicate balance between speed and accuracy, understanding when to push the pace and when to prioritize faultless execution. The time dynamics in eventing demand not only superior riding skills but also strong tactical awareness and decision-making under pressure, making it a sport that continually challenges riders to elevate their performance.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What are the different eventing competition levels?

    There are 8 levels of eventing competition, starting with Beginner Novice and progressing all the way to the advanced level.

    What is the highest level of eventing competition?

    The highest level of eventing competition is the Advanced level, which requires the most skill and experience from both horse and rider.

    Can anyone participate in eventing competitions?

    Yes, anyone can participate in eventing competitions as long as they meet the age and experience requirements for each level.

    How is eventing different from other equestrian disciplines?

    Eventing is unique in that it combines three different phases: dressage, cross-country, and show jumping, testing the horse and rider’s abilities in various ways.

    What is required to move up to the next eventing competition level?

    Moving up to the next eventing competition level typically requires a certain amount of experience and success at the current level, as well as meeting any age or other qualifications.

    Are there any special rules or regulations for eventing competitions?

    Yes, eventing competitions have their own set of rules and regulations, as outlined by the governing body of the sport, to ensure the safety and fairness of all participants.

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