Eventing Handbook

What is Eventing?

What is CIC?

The Three Phases

What is Eventing?

Eventing is a triathlon for horses. It was originally designed to test military chargers who needed to be fearless and fast across the battlefield as well as elegant and obedient on the parade ground. Modern eventing has evolved into an exciting sport that attracts interest and participation from all levels of sports enthusiasts from weekend hobby riders to professional horsemen and Olympic stars.

In a modern eventing competition, commonly known as a “horse trials” or simply as an “event,” horse and rider compete in a three-part test, each part called a “phase.” Penalty points from each of the three phases are totaled, and at the end of all three phases, the lowest score wins the division. Competitors enter their horses in different levels based on the horse and rider’s ability and past performance. If there are enough entrants, the level is divided into divisions.

At the Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials and CIC**/CIC* riders and their horses may compete in one of five national level divisions: Beginner Novice, Novice, Training, Preliminary, and Intermediate. International divisions include the CIC** which is held for qualified competitors at the Intermediate level, and CIC* for qualified competitors at the Preliminary level.

What is CIC?

The CIC** and CIC* are open only to competitors and horses who have qualified at specific events during the current and two preceding calendar years.

A CIC is part of the new qualification system required of upper level riders aspiring to ride in CCI three day events. According to the Federation Equestre Internationale, a CIC (translated Competition International Combined) is a “one day event” including dressage, cross-country and jumping tests, without the steeplechase and roads and tracks phase found in CCI’s (Competition Complete International). Both the CIC and CCI are run under the rules of the FEI rather than the rules of the host country. A CIC** is run at Intermediate (US) level, and the CIC* is a Preliminary level division.

What are the differences between the CIC divisions and the National divisions? First, the CIC requires a more complex dressage test with two judges instead of one. Second, the CIC is run under strict FEI Veterinary regulations and inspections. The CIC requires the addition of a Medical Officer (human) and an FEI Veterinarian (equine) and additional requirements for emergency preparedness.

One of the more interesting aspects of running a CIC is that riders from outside the U.S. may only compete if they have the permission of their own National Federation (NF). A written invitation is sent to each country that has riders who might want to compete. The NF’s acceptance of the invitation gives riders from that country permission to enter. We have a number of “foreign” riders competing this year, some of them old friends, and others we hope will want to come back year after year.

The Three Phases of Eventing



Those who compete in the Novice Division are asked to perform straightforward movements, such as making large circles or crossing the ring in a number of different ways at a walk, trot, and canter. Competitors in the Training Division are asked to execute more demanding movements. The horses are expected to be more consistent in the way they follow the rider's requests. The Dressage Tests for the Preliminary and Intermediate Divisions have more intricate movements, demonstrating the horse's ability to lengthen and shorten his stride. They are performed in a larger arena than the other two divisions and are judged by much more demanding guidelines.

Even the most inexperienced observer can quickly see which horse and rider team is executing the smoothest and most competent test. The objective is for the horse to move through the required patterns without any appearance of effort on the rider's part. All of these tests are performed individually with each specific movement scored from 0 to 10. The requirements and point system used for scoring are printed in your program. Please note that the score for the Dressage Phase is converted to penalty points, so the lower the score the better.

Cross Country


The cross-country phase of the event is the heart of the sport and counts most in the scoring. The rider gallops the horse over a set course, jumping fences that have been built to blend into the land so that they seem like natural obstacles. The fences ask questions and, in so doing, test the horse's ability to jump uphill or downhill, drop into or out of water; go through differing light conditions, or deal with changes in footing and terrain.

While all of the fences present challenges to the horse and rider; some, particularly water and ditch fences, are tougher tests of the horse and rider's courage and confidence. It takes a brave horse to jump into water he has never seen. Because the horse cannot inspect the course before he is asked to negotiate it, he has no way to know how deep the water is or what monsters might lurk under its surface. He must trust his rider and go forward without question. It also takes great bravery on part of the rider. Horses can sense the rider's apprehension and misread it as a signal to stop. To excel at this sport, the horse and rider must have courage and confidence in each other.

In Cross Country, penalty points are assessed for refusing to jump or for running out of either side of an obstacle. 20 penalty points are given for the first disobedience; 40 for the second at the same fence. The rider and horse are eliminated and asked to leave the course if there is a third refusal at the same obstacle. They are also eliminated for a total of four disobediences throughout the course, if the rider falls, or if the horse falls.

Time penalties of .4 per second are given for going slower than the optimum time allowed. The time will be posted in several places but may be changed by officials at any time for safety reasons. Speed penalties are given for finishing too quickly: Novice riders are penalized for coming in 60 seconds or more ahead of the posted time, Training and Preliminary riders must finish no more than 30 seconds under the posted time, and Intermediate rides must be no more than 15 seconds under time. A 20 point penalty can be given for delaying between the last fence and the finish line.

Here are the guidline for the four levels of cross country. More details are available from the US Eventing Association. For identification purposes, each division uses a different color to mark the fence number.

Division # of Jumps Height Width Top/Bottom
Beg. Novice 14 to 18 2'7" 2'9"/3'8"
Novice 16 to 20 2'11" 3'3"/4'11"
Training 20 to 24 3'3" 3'11"/5'11"
Preliminary 22 to 30 3'7" 4'7"/6'11"
Intermediate 26 to 34 3'9" 5'3"/7'11"



The stadium jumping phase of eventing tests the horse's obedience and athleticism over a timed course of typical show jumps. In every division, the size of the stadium jumps is the same as for the Cross Country Phase. The scoring is simple to follow:

  • 4 penalty points for lowering the height of a fence
  • 4 penalty points for 1st disobedience (refusal, run-out, circle)
  • 2nd disobedience on course for novice and training = 8 pts
  • 2nd disobedience on course for preliminary and intermediate = elimination
  • Elimination for 3rd disobedience (novice and training)
  • Elimination for rider fall
  • Elimination for horse fall
  • 1 penalty for each second over the time allowed

Photos by Jennifer Weber