Horse Trials Explained

Three Day Eventing, Dressage, Showjumping and more explained


Dressage means "training" in French. The rider must work in harmony with the horse to achieve a partnership that is calm, supple, loose, flexible, attentive and keen. Dressage tests are performed in 60x20m all-weather arenas with a predetermined set of movements - except the final round, where riders decide their own test and perform to music. Five individual judges mark each movement out of 10. This is then converted into a percentage score.

Top Class British Dressage Riders: Laura Bechtolsheimer, Fiona Bigwood, Maria Eilberg, Carl Hester


Eventing was developed as a military exercise to reflect the training needed for horses in the army. It is an all round test of horse and rider with three distinct phases: Dressage, Cross-Country and Jumping.

Top Class British Eventing Riders: Tina Cook, William Fox-Pitt, Piggy French, Pippa Funnell, Mary King, Nicola Wilson


Showjumping is all about speed, agility and accuracy. There are 14 obstacles in a specific order for each round. In the first round, the time taken to complete the course is used to calculate the score, after then a specific time limit is used. "Faults" are incurred for exceeding the time limit, knocking down fences, falling or refusing to jump.

Top Class British Showjumpers: Scott Brash, Tina Fletcher, David McPherson, Michael Whitaker


Para-Equestrian Dressage is virtually the same as Dressage. To provide a fair competition, each rider is classified as a particular Grade (1a, 1b, II, III or IV) depending on their disability, with IV being the least disabled.Competitors find different ways to communicate with their horses and sometimes various additional aids are allowed.

Top Class British Para-Equestrian Dressage Riders: Ricky Balshaw, Sophie Christiansen, Anne Dunham, Lee Pearson, Jo Pitt, Emma Sheardown, Sophie Wells


Combined Driving is competed for by four-in-hand drivers (each driver driving a team of 4 horses through tree competitions). There are 3 phases: Driven Dressage, Marathon and Obstacle Cones Driving.


Endurance Riding tests the competitor's ability to safely manage the stamina and fitness of the horse against the track, distance, climate, terrain and the clock. The competition is over 160km with 5 stops for vets to check the horses' fitness to continue. The competitor who finishes in the shortest time wins.

Top Class British Endurance Riders: Christine Yeoman, David Yeoman, Beccy Broughton-Booker, Sarah Rogerson, Ros Clapp, Janice Cockley-Adams


Reining is a sport designed to show the athletic ability of a western type horse in a show arena. Competitors are required to run one of several approved patterns, which include movements such as small slow circles, large fast circles, flying lead changes, roll backs, 360 degree spins, back ups and sliding stops!

Top Class British Reining Riders: Lee Rutter, Francesca Sternberg, Doug Allen, Tammy Greaves, Jessica Sternberg


Vaulting is gymnastics performed on the back of a moving horse. The horse is worked in canter on a circle under the control of a lunger. It incorporates beauty, power, strength, elegance and precision, not to mention balance. Up to three vaulters can perform together on the horse in the freestyle team competition.

Top Class British Vaulters: Lydia Barham, Megan Bignell, Paige Brown, Steph Hunter, Sarah Reid, Emma Runge, Sara Shortland, Hannah Eccles, Joanne Eccles, Ross Foreman, Lucy Philips, John Eccles, Rebecca Morgan, Julie Newell