What is a Horse Trials
A horse trial is a competition for horses in the sport of Combined Training. Combined training is a triathlon of horseback riding, involving dressage, show jumping, and cross country jumping. At its highest levels, combined training is an Olympic sport, one of the few sports in which men and women are allowed to compete as equals. The United States is one of the top world contenders in this sport. For information on our regional association visit the Area VII web site. For national information visit the US Eventing site.
But the sport is not limited to international levels. The sport draws riders to local competitions all over the country, such as the one at Inavale Farm. Combined training is divided into levels, each designed to prepare the horse and rider for the next. Local horse trials provide a starting point for America's future Olympians, as well as a fun and challenging outlet for amateur and hobby riders.
The first phase of the competition is a dressage test. Dressage is a French word meaning training, and involves a series of complicated movements performed in an enclosed arena. Precision, smoothness, and obedience show off the horse's gymnastic development.
The show jumping phase of the competition requires exact riding. It consists of 12 to 15 jumping obstacles designed to test the ability of both horse and rider to negotiate a variety of fences, including combinations and spread fences (obstacles with base spread in addition to height). The rider's objective is to complete the jumping course in the time allowed without knocking down any poles and incurring "jumping faults".
The sport of Combined Training is probably best known for the cross country jumping phase, in which horse and rider gallop (at up to 20 miles per hour) over obstacles only the rider is familiar with. Obstacles include water hazards, ditches, banks, as well as a variety of solid jumps over a course of 1 1/2 miles (novice level) to 5 miles (advanced level). The cross-country jumping phase requires tremendous stamina and boldness from horse and rider, and is the most exciting phase for spectators.