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About eventing

Eventing is like the triathalon for horses.
It consists of 3 phases:
Dressage
Cross Country
Show Jumping(stadium)
 
The different levels include:
Beginner Novice (2'7" jumps)
Novice (2'11" jumps)
Training (3'3" jumps)
Prelim(3'7" jumps)
Intermediate (3'9" jumps)
Advanced (3'11" jumps)
 
at the prelim intermediate and advanced level you can have what is called a 3-day event.  This is usually denoted by CCI*(prelim) CCI**(intermediate) or CCI***/CCI**** (advanced).  In a 3-day event you have a different/more difficult dressage test, 4 phases of cross country and usually a more challenging stadium phase. 
The 4 phases of XC include
Phase A: Roads and tracks
Phase B: Steeplchase
Phase C: Roads and tracks
Phase D: XC course
each one is timed, and phase B and D have jumps with which you can incur jump penalties.
 
Dressage is ALWAYS first.  It sets the initial penalty score for all competitors. Dressage tests the obediance, flexability, athleticism, and training of the horse.  Dressage, in french, means training.  What happens is you are given a "test" which contains certain movements- all relative to the level at which you are competing at.  You know the test before hand, and may practice it as much as you like.  You ride it in a 20X40m(lower levels) ring, or a 20X60m (higher levels)ring.  The test is broken down into movements which you are judged on by a judge.  You can receive anywhere from a 0(movement not completed) to a 10 (excellent).  You then receive a percentage which is subtracted from 100 to get your penalty score.  Dressage, as I like to beleive, is the foundation to a well trained horse.
 
XC, usually second, but sometimes last, consists of naturalistic jumps (i.e. logs, water, banks, ditches, etc.... sometimes cars and hand crafted things too, but that's besides the point) usually built out of wood.  The height and technicality of your XC course depends on what level you are competing at.  You receive penalty points if you have a refusal on course or if you are too fast or too slow on course.  You get to walk your course as many times as you want before you go XC, but your horse may not see it.  You are given an optimum time- which is the amount of time you would like to take to complete the course. If you go over the optimum time you will get TIME faults.  You are also given minimal time- which if you go under, you will receive SPEED faults.  The goal is to go clean and not add any penalty points to your dressage score.
 
Stadium is usually the final place deciding phase. Stadium is just like show jumping in the sense that you want to go clean without time faults.  A refusal or a knocked rail will add penalty points to your score.
In the end you want to have the lowest all around penalty score.