What Is Eventing? This Three-Day Equestrian Event Literally Covers A Lot Of Territory

Not all Olympic athletes are human. Sure, the equestrian competitions feature the skill and dedication of the competing horse trainers, but the horses themselves are just as much in the game. The inclusion of another species is not the only thing that makes the equestrian events unique; men and women compete directly against one another, and one of the categories goes on for three whole days. That event is called eventing, which wins a gold medal for vaguest name possible, and Tuesday was its final day. What is eventing?

Eventing is one of three equestrian categories, along with jumping and dressage. Eventing includes those events plus on more: cross-country. The first day of eventing is devoted to dressage, which is kind of like horse dancing. The word is French for "training" and showcases how in sync the horse and the rider are. The horse performs a series of refined movements, guided by subtle signals from the rider. The emphasis is on communication, gracefulness, and cooperation.

The second day eventing event is cross-country. This tests the horses' speed, endurance, and jumping skill through a series of obstacles across diverse terrain. The cross-country course for 2016 was 5,840 meters (or about 3.6 miles) long and contained 33 jumps, three of which were over water. The jumps were as high as 1.2 meters (or almost four feet). The course contained several bends and twists that tested horses' agility.


After all that work, equestrian Olympians returned for a third day of jumping to finish off the eventing event. On this day, horses clear a series of fences to demonstrate that they have the stamina to continue in further competitions after the intense work of the previous cross-country competition.

At the Olympics, both team and individual eventing competitions are held. In 2016, France took the team gold in eventing on Tuesday, followed by Germany with the silver and Australia earning bronze. Germany's Michael Jung clinched the gold medal in the individual contest.

There will be no rest for the horses and riders after the eventing days, as a series of dressage and jumping competitions will take place on both team and individual levels through August 19. There's plenty more horse dancing and high jumps to come — and hopefully no injuries as these beautiful creatures and their riders perform their feats. For now, they've passed through the Olympic crucible that is eventing.