As someone who started in h/j, then switched to eventing, then switched back to h/j, and now back to eventing – I can attest to how different some of the rules are. Lifelong eventers are often astounded by how much is allowed in h/j, while at the same time h/j-ers are often horrified by some of the seemingly strict rules of eventing. I see some of this come into play amongst bloggers as well, with such a diverse group, that sometimes don’t understand the rules of the other sport. Since I just finished re-reading the Eventing section of the rulebook for the second time (it’s titillating reading material) I thought I would pull out the ones that showed the biggest difference between the two disciplines. For good or for bad, like them are not, it’s fun to compare and contrast and get a better idea of each sport.
Send us your money eons in advance and hope disaster doesn’t strike
OPENING DATE. The opening date for entries for Horse Trials will be the Tuesday prior to the date that falls six weeks before the first day of the competition.
CLOSING DATE. The closing date for entries will be four weeks after the opening date.
When you go to enter an event, this is the first thing you notice. They officially start accepting entries over 6 weeks prior to the event date, and officially close for entries 4 weeks later. That means you have to enter well in advance of the event itself. Some shows accept late entries with a fee, but not all, and in fact if the event has limited entries and you don’t enter right around opening date, you run the risk of not making it in. That’s a very stark contrast to h/j, where entries are generally due a few days before but are accepted at any time with a late fee. And in that world you can even enter/scratch from classes on the day they’re happening. Much less stressful. Then again, this is how eventing is able to have start times instead of a lot of hurry up and wait, and start times are amazing.
Put your number on – we’re watching you
1. IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS – By 3:00 p.m. of the day prior to the start of the entire competition, or upon arrival if later, each horse, including non-competing horses, shall be issued a number. This number must be worn at all times when the horse is being ridden or exercised.
Basically, in eventing, if someone is sitting on the horse or the horse is being lunged, it must have it’s number on. This is because, as you’ll see below, there are fairly specific rules about who can ride or work the horse and HOW that horse can be ridden or worked, so it’s important that the officials be able to easily identify each horse by it’s number at any time. In h/j you just have to remember to put your number on by the time you go in the ring, and you certainly don’t need it for lunging, hacking, or schooling.
You can’t ride that horse
RESTRICTIONS ON SCHOOLING HORSES. It is forbidden, under penalty of disqualification, for anyone other than the competitor who will ride the horse in the competition to school the horse during the competition.
In h/j, anyone can ride any horse at any time on the showgrounds. Your Grandma Maxine could hop up there and warm your horse up for you before your class if you wanted her to. Not so in eventing. Only the person who is showing the horse is allowed to ride it at the competition. The only exception is a groom being allowed to walk or trot the horse just to get it from one place to another. That means no trainer rides or trainer warm-ups (unless the trainer is the one showing the horse), which is fairly standard practice in h/j.
Let’s help everyone not kill each other in the warm-up
The only practice fences that competitors may jump are those flagged fences provided by the Organizer. No part of the fences may ever be held by anyone while a horse is jumping. These fences may not be raised more than 10 cm (4 inches) above the maximum height permitted for the competition in progress (or about to begin), nor may the spread exceed the maximum permitted. Ground lines may be placed directly under, or up to 1.00 meter (3’3”) in front of, the obstacle. These practice fences must be jumped in the correct direction.
In eventing warm-up rings, the warm-up jumps are flagged. You are only permitted to jump those fences, and in the correct direction, with the red flag to your right. In addition to that, you’re only allowed to jump a certain height fence in the warm-up – no more than 4″ higher than the maximum height of the level you’re competing in. The jumps are set to the appropriate height by the show staff in between divisions, and it’s rare that anyone actually changes the height of one. Usually there will be at least an oxer, a vertical, and a crossrail. Sometimes more fences, sometimes not. This is obviously a stark contrast to the h/j warm-up where you can jump the fences whichever way you want and change the height however much you want.
You might die, so secure your medical history to your body
MEDICAL CARDS/MEDICAL BRACELETS. An approved and completed medical card or medical bracelet is required any time while jumping. Medical cards must be enclosed in a transparent, waterproof carrier. Medical cards must be securely attached to the competitor’s upper arm on the outside of the competitor’s clothing. Medical bracelets must be visible on the competitor’s wrist. Medical cards must include any relevant medical history, injury (particularly to the head), drug allergies and current medication.
In eventing you must have a medical armband or medical bracelet for the jumping phases. I wear my medical bracelet 24/7 so I never have to worry about forgetting it, or get into a situation where I need it but don’t have it. You definitely don’t see h/j-ers showing with their medical history affixed to their arm. (I think I just heard a couple dozen h/j-ers say “because our sport isn’t INSANE!” Touche, my friends… touche.)
Gadgetry – NOPE
EXERCISE AREAS. Side reins are permitted only while lunging an unmounted horse, as are running reins and chambons. Other martingales, any form of gadget (such as a bearing, running or balancing reins, etc.) and any form of blinkers, are forbidden, under penalty of disqualification.
Yep, it’s true, you can’t ride your horse in draw reins (or a neck stretcher or a german martingale etc etc) at an event. I’ve seen more than one newbie get in trouble for this one, but it’s very commonplace in the warm-up rings and victory gallops/awards in h/j.
No stuffing things in their ears
DRESSAGE e. Martingales, bit guards, any kind of gadgets (such as bearing, side, running or balancing reins, etc.), reins with any loops or hand attachments, any kind of boots or leg bandages and any form of blinkers, including earmuffs, earplugs, hoods, nose covers and seat covers are, under penalty of elimination, strictly forbidden. Protective fly hoods made of thin material are permitted. However, these are subject to inspection by the Officials at the end of the test to ensure that nothing prohibited has been added (i.e. special material) or is covered by the fly hoods to protect from sound.
Earplugs or sound-proofed bonnets are not allowed in dressage. Anyone want to fathom a guess at what percentage of hunters go in earplugs?
You can’t ride in there
Disqualification – Ground Jury may disqualify a competitor in the following cases when, in its opinion, the action constitutes unsportsmanlike or abusive conduct: b. Riding in the Dressage arena or in the Jumping arena prior to the actual competition, EV108.2c. c. Riding close to Cross-Country obstacles prior to the actual competition,
This is similar to jumper rules, but eventing takes it one step farther. You aren’t allowed to ride in the dressage ring or the jumping ring at all before the competition (exception: some big events have “ring familarization” where you’re allowed to walk around or lead the horse around the ring a little beforehand) whether the course has been set up yet or not. Sometimes warm-up areas will be very near or on the XC course, in which case you’re not allowed to ride close to any of the fences. And yes, the stewards are watching. Of course, for hunters, they are allowed to school in their ring and over their fences before showing.
Calling dressage tests and learning how to shut up
Dressage Rules 2. All tests must be carried out from memory, and all movements must follow in the order laid down in the test. 7. The use of the voice in any way whatsoever or clicking the tongue once or repeatedly is a serious fault involving the deduction of at least two marks from those that would otherwise have been awarded for the movement where this occurred.
Eventing is different from straight dressage in that no one is allowed to call your test for you. In theory there should be less tests to remember, and therefore no real need for a caller. But as is also true with straight dressage, the use of voice aids is not allowed. Yup h/j-ers, no clucking or audible whoaing allowed in dressage.
“Unauthorized Assistance” aka you’re all alone in the world and no one can help you
UNAUTHORIZED ASSISTANCE. a. Any intervention by a third party, whether solicited or not, with the object of facilitating the task of the competitor or of helping his horse, is considered unauthorized assistance and the competitor is liable to be eliminated. b. In particular, the following are forbidden: 1. Intentionally to join another competitor and to continue the course in company with him; 2. To be followed, preceded or accompanied, on any part of the course by any vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, or horseman not in the competition; 3. To post friends at certain points to call directions or make signals in passing; 4. To have someone at an obstacle to encourage the horse by any means whatsoever
Hey h/j-ers, do you like having your trainer at the ingate to murmer wisdom to you as you pass by or help you remember what to jump next? At an event, once you enter the ring in dressage or stadium, or leave the start box on XC, you are completely and utterly on your own. No one is allowed to help you in any way – not to point out your next fence, not to cluck at your horse, not to yell even a simple instruction like whoa or sit up. Doing so can get you eliminated. Eventers – make sure your friends and family know this. Slap some duct tape on their mouths if you need to. No one wants to get eliminated because someone else was just trying to help… we’ve all heard the chorus of “SHHH!!” when a well-intended but uninformed spectator starts clucking.
Please god don’t jump from a standstill
CROSS COUNTRY Refusals. 1. At obstacles or elements with height (exceeding 30 cm), a horse is considered to have refused if it stops in front of the obstacle to be jumped. 2. At all other obstacles (i.e., 30 cm or less in height) a stop followed immediately by a standing jump is not penalized, but if the halt is sustained or in any way prolonged, this constitutes a refusal. The horse may step sideways but if it steps back, even with one foot, this is a refusal.
This is one that even some eventers seem confused by, so I threw it in here. On XC when a jump is over 1′ in height, it is considered a refusal once the horse has come to a complete stop, even if he then proceeds to jump from a standstill. The only time a horse is allowed to “jump” from a standstill without penalty would be in the case of a ditch, down bank, water crossing, etc. Some people think that it’s not a refusal until the horse takes a step backward but that’s not the first determining factor – the fence height is. Jumping solid fences from a standstill is unsafe and therefore not allowed without penalty. However, it is allowed to jump a fence in stadium from a standstill without incurring a refusal (same as in the jumpers).
6. WILLFUL DELAY. A competitor is considered to have willfully delayed his finish if, between the last fence and the finish line, the horse halts, walks, circles, or serpentines. The competitor will be penalized at the discretion of the Ground Jury.
There is a certain time window allowed on cross country that you must finish in to avoid incurring penalties. Sometimes people end up going too fast, look down at their watch at the end, and then try to eat up some time between the last fence and the finish flags by walking or circling. That’s not allowed and can earn you 20 penalties for willful delay. The only thing really close to this situation is Optimum Time classes in the jumpers, and I have actually seen someone circle before crossing the finish to give themselves a few extra seconds. OT classes still seem pretty rare though, and therefore knowing how to feel your correct speed and keep track of your time isn’t such a priority in that world.
What do y’all think about these rules and the differences between what’s allowed in h/j vs eventing? Are any of them surprising to you? For better or for worse. There are some things I really like, some things I don’t, and some things I accept begrudgingly. H/Jers and dressage folks, what do you think some of the main differences are in the rules between your discipline and eventing?