In case you haven’t noticed I’ve been all about learning and continuing your education lately and this momentum will carry forward into this column.
As a certified Equine Canada coach, I am required to participate in educational programs that will contribute to my professional development. This required professional development has led me back to a sport that I want to share with you, eventing.
Eventing is a term that is often used interchangeably with horse trials or combined training. All three are modern terms for an equine sport with a very long history, originating in the military back in the late 1800’s. What began as ‘endurance’ races over hundreds of miles has evolved into an exciting sport of three separate disciplines.
The first discipline is dressage. Dressage is set pattern (called a dressage test) performed in an enclosed arena. Marks are awarded for the quality of the performance. It is judged on the obedience of the horse, quality of the movements as well as the harmony between horse and rider. The challenge of the pattern and its required movements is amplified by the level of fitness required by the horse to complete all three disciplines.
At the end of the dressage test the score is converted to penalty points. The goal of the competition is to finish all three phases with the lowest amount of penalties. Dressage is critical, not only because it encourages and rewards correct training, but because it sets the placing’s for the event. A lovely dressage ride will put you in a good position with a low number of penalties on the scoreboard while a poor ride leaves you waiting for others to make mistakes so that you can move up.
There are no bonus marks, no way of lowering your score, your dressage mark is the lowest your score will be. The goal is to complete the competition on your dressage score, accumulating no further penalties in the jumping phases.
Depending on the event organizer and the schedule, the order of last two phases or disciplines may vary. In a true three-day event, cross-country will come second, followed by the stadium jumping phase.
Cross-country is a test of fitness and courage. It includes galloping ‘across country’, jumping over solid obstacles in a numbered course. These jumps are navigated over a variety of terrain and hills. The objective is to complete the course without any jumping penalties (from refusals) and within the established time window (therefore not going too fast or slow).
Traditionally, the final phase is stadium jumping. Stadium jumping is similar to show jumping (as seen on TV at Spruce Meadows) but for the purposes of eventing it is scored differently. Again, the goal of the rider is to not incur any additional penalties from the horse knocking down or refusing to jump an obstacle. In eventing, the stadium phase demonstrates that the horse is fit enough and obedient enough to complete this test after the exertion and exhilaration of the cross-country phase.
Alberta has a strong Eventing community and its governing association is called the Alberta Horse Trials Association. Their website (http://www.albertahorsetrials.com) is a fabulous resource for eventing information. We, in Central Alberta, are very lucky to have two fantastic facilities nearby: Alhambra Stables at Red Deer and Thompson Country Horse Trials at Rocky Mountain House.
This brings me back to my required professional development that I was discussing in my introduction. In searching for local ‘updating’ hours I stumbled on a few programs being offered by the AHTA that I want to share with you.
June 19-21 they will be hosting a Coach Workshop and Rider Clinic at Olds College. Coaches and riders will work with experts Claudia Cojocar and Lorraine Laframboise. Day one is specifically geared toward coaches while days two and three will include Claudia teaching a jumping clinic while Lorraine works with the coaches outside the ring.
These two incredible coaches have been invaluable in developing the current coaching program in Canada at the grassroots and high performance levels.
When I read about this clinic I couldn’t download the registration form fast enough! Auditors are welcome; please check out the website for contact information. The opportunity to learn from such incredible horsewomen, who have experience both at the elite levels of show jumping and eventing, is not to be missed.
From Aug. 7th to 10th, here at Red Deer’s Alhambra Stables, International Eventing star Leslie Law will be teaching a clinic.
While the riding portion is full, spectators are welcome, again check the website for further details.
If you are interested in trying out eventing, learn-about-eventing type clinics are hosted in the spring. Canadian Olympic rider, Sandra Donnelly, will be teaching at Alhambra Stables June 16 and 17th.
If you are a bit of an adrenaline junkie and enjoy equine competition this might be the sport for you try.
Eventers are amazing people and based on this year’s educational programs they obviously have great taste in clinicians as well!
Shelly L. Graham is a local rider, trainer, horse breeder and Equine Canada certified coach.