Eventing began at the turn of the last century. Each phase was designed as a test to demonstrate the abilities of horse and rider; dressage a showcase of the horse’s elegance and obedience to rider, cross country a grueling test of stamina and courage and show jumping to prove the horse’s fitness.


In 1912, eventing became an Olympic sport. The format was quite different from the sport we know today. It was a male only sport. Competitors were military officers in active duty riding military horses. Riders were required to wear their military uniforms. Horses were turned out in military tack, each burdened with 176 pounds of weight.

Day 1 was a 54.7 km gallop immediately followed by a 3.5 km steeplechase of 10 natural obstacles. The last phase had to be completed within 15 minutes. Day 2 was reserved for rest. Day 3 was show ring jumping comprised of 15 obstacles from 1.3 to 3 m high. And Day 4 showcased the dressage competition.


In 1920 dressage was eliminated, replaced by a second endurance phase. 25 riders from 8 nations competed, their task was grueling. Day 1 was 45 km on trail and roads immediately followed by the 3.5 km course with 18 obstacles ranging from 1.1 to 1.5 meters high. Both parts of the race had to be completed within 3 ½ hours. Day 2 found horse and riders back on the trails racing 19.3 km within a 1-hour timeframe. Day 3 was show jumping, 18 jumps up to 1.25 meters high with a time requirement of 3 minutes.

Eventing has been refined over the last century. The most significant adoption occurred when this most exclusive sport became one of inclusion and embraced women as equal competitors. Helena du Pont, United States, became the first woman to compete during the 1964 Tokyo games.

Monday was the cross country competition at the 2016 RIO Olympics. The course is 5840 meters with an optimum completion time of 10 minutes 15 seconds. There are 44 jumps up to 1.2 meters high. You may have read about its challenges and the astounding number of eliminations. Riders’ statements characterize the challenging course design…

“It is extremely technical”
“It’s tough. It’s very tricky”
“It’s technical from beginning to end.”
“…yeah, I’m not sure…it’s a tough course.”
“I’m very nervous about that cross country course.”


Its difficult to imagine that the military eventers of 100 years ago would have voiced such candid concerns given the propriety of that generation. Presented with the complex course and daunting jumps of modern eventing, it’s a safe bet they would pee their pants.

Congrats to the intrepid winners of the RIO eventing competition, team and individual!
France – Gold
Germany – Silver
Australia – Bronze

Germany, Michael Jung – Gold
France, Astier Nicolas – Silver
United States, Phillip Dutton – Bronze

Canada, Rebecca Howard – 10th
Germany, Sandra Auffarth – 11th
Germany, Ingrid Klimke – 14th

Edited from the Following Sources:
http://useventing.com/news/2016-olympic-cross-country-preview, https://horsenetwork.com/2016/08/caution-falling-riders-ahead/,

Cross country video from the 1920 Olympics (click the link in the window below to view on YouTube)