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Basics

Equestrian competition is comprised of three different disciplines: dressage, jumping and eventing. In each discipline there is both team and individual competition. One of three Olympic sports where men and women compete against each other, equestrian is the only sport for which an animal is used.  

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Phillip Dutton explains the three disciplines in eventing.

Dressage

The French word for "training," dressage is a harmonious demonstration of the horse's three natural gaits (walk, trot and canter) and its ability to respond to the rider's commands as the horse performs a series of movements in prearranged order. Throughout the course the rider directs the horse to perform movements. They are also judged on the trot, canter, pirouette, piaffe and passage. Riders, who must memorize the test in order to guide their horses through it, may not use their voices throughout the competition. Riding whips are also forbidden in the ring, but spurs are required, allowing riders to demonstrate the ability to convey light pressure to the horse. In order to perform well in dressage, the horse must be calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, showing a perfect understanding with its rider.

Jumping

Referred to as "Grand Prix" or "show" jumping, the object of equestrian's jumping discipline is for the horse and rider to clear every obstacle on the course in a specified time, without tallying any faults.

Eventing

A test of total horsemanship, eventing -- also commonly referred to as the "three-day event," although it extends over four days -- is a competition that combines dressage, cross-country and jumping events. The dressage and jumping phases are competed in the same manner as each event's Olympic competition, but at a less demanding level.

The team and individual events are held at the same time, with a second jumping test to determine the final rankings for the top individual riders. All riders must use the same horse in all phases of the competition. The cross-country event replaces the endurance phase. In what used to be a four-part endurance test, the distances and intensity have been greatly reduced, consisting only of a cross-country test.


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