What is a one day event?
The Festival of British Eventing is unique in that it incorporates the British Championships of the three levels of Eventing - Novice, Intermediate & Advanced (also known as the British Open Championships).
A One Day Event is just that - it means that each horse and rider
combination must complete the 3 phases of the event in one day -
Dressage, Show Jumping & Cross Country - although, due to the number
of competitors here some competitors will do their dressage one day and
the Show Jumping & Cross Country the next.
The examination of a horse & rider's ability to work together.
Dressage is judged on the bearing, demeanour, discipline and elegance
that the partnership brings to the arena. The test consists of a
sequence of movements to test the suppleness and obedience of the horse.
A test of agility, precision and control of both horse and rider over a
course of show jumps, taking place in the main arena at the centre of
The most exciting part of the One Day Event. riders must negotiate a
course of approximately 30 timber built solid obstacles within the time
limit designed to test the fitness, technique and all round ability of
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GATCOMBE - BY SIMON BARNES, Chief Sportswriter for THE TIMES
have seen great sport, and seen it in many guises and many places. I am
chief sportswriter for The Times: great sport is my job and the thrill
and terror of the big occasion inspires me as it inspires the athletes I
watch. All the same, I know in my heart that there is only one sport.
And if I could do a devil's bargain, and be a master of any sport of my
choosing, there would be no long, hard thinking time required.
Eventing. It is the finest sport ever devised: the most perfect, the most thrilling, the most noble. I know: I have endeavoured to be perfect, thrilling and noble myself as an eventer: and one out of three isn't bad.
I am a horseman myself, I have five horses at home and yes, I am the one who does the mucking out and the riding. It is a privilege to spend one's life and one's worries and one's joys with animals such as these: and so seek those moments of co-operation when human and animal, two very different species of mammal, are thinking and working as one.
Sport is a simple thing: it is about one person trying to beat another: one group trying to beat another group. Sport is competition: the joy of the winner at the expense of the misery of the loser. The great battles invariably capture the nation's imagination at certain times: during the World Cup, Wimbledon, the Olympic Games.
The most perfect expression of horsemanship in terms of sport, in terms of competition, is in the sport of eventing: in the triple-discipline of dressage, show-jumping and cross-country. The sport tests horsemanship, understanding, team-work (and more on that in a moment), courage and trust. And above all, it tests that most particular courage required to win. Mark Todd had it in super-plus. Pippa Funnell has it. Charisma had it too.
I once did a few sessions of polo and loved it. For a brief moment I thought I would throw my life away in pursuit of the polo ball: beggar myself to get ponies that would stop and turn and gallop. But I was all right quite a short time afterwards. It's a wonderful game: but you don't get any time to think about the horse. You are always thinking about the ball. And in the end, I found that unsatisfying.
Eventing is a competitive examination of the relationship between horse and rider: of the development of trust and understanding. Trust must be established very deep, so that it can be called on in times of crisis: and a sporting event is designed with most particular care to be a series of crises.
The beauty of it all is in the three parts: three things that look contradictory but are in fact complementary. You have the gymnastic calm of dressage, the niggling precision of show-jumping, and above all, the wild athleticism, courage and control of the cross-country course. It was Frank Weldon, the former director of Badminton, who said that an event-rider must be a jack of all trades, and master of one.
But increasingly in eventing, the requirement is to be master of every single phase. There is no point in flying around the cross-country if you can't bring off a flying change in the dressage. Standards soar: and mere courage is no longer enough. All the same, you don't leave home without it.
It is, I always think, a team thing. Eventing is the ultimate team sport, after all. I am not talking to those slightly awkward competitions at the Olympic Games, when the British team takes on the Australian team and so forth. I am talking about the tightest team in sport: the team of two, the team of horse and rider.
It is often said that team sports knock down the barriers between individuals. Such differences as colour, race, nationality, language, religion, class and temperament are set aside in the thrill of conflict. It is not that they stop existing: they stop mattering.
But there are greater differences than race. There is, for example, the difference of species. One of the most extraordinary things in natural history is the mutual affinity between horses and humans: the way horses co-operate not as reluctant slaves but as sharing, pro-active partners in joy and folly.
Every one who has ever sat on a horse knows that: the joy of wild burn-up, the arguably greater joy of a walk with a single hand on the buckle of the reins. Eventing takes the human-horsey conspiracy and organises it into the most profoundly intricate examination of the nature of the bond that unites the team.
Eventing, more than any other sport, breaks down the barrier between one species and another. It measures the co-operation between a human and an alien: two deeply dissimilar bodies and hearts and minds that, for some extraordinary, profound and magnificent reason, are prepared to work together in pursuit of the wild untrammelled joys of victory.