On a more local level, horse trials as they are often known as today, originated at Badminton. In the 1940s the 10th Duke of Beaufort decided to run an event at home so British riders had somewhere to train for future international competitions.
The first Badminton Horse Trials was held in 1949 and was the start of the sport at a national level.
In those early days Eventing evolved and became established in what was known as the long format over four phases. Phase A was roads and tracks, required for warming up, B was steeplechasing at a gallop over brush type fences, C was back to roads and tracks, before horse and rider were then vet checked in a 10-minute holding box. The horse’s heart rate had to get below 80 within 10 minutes of being in the holding box, if the horse was declared fit, off they would go across country.
Finally, at the end there was a further vet examination to check the horse’s health, before the pairing would be allowed to show jump, the final element.
All of this was designed to test stamina and the ability of the horse to recover and carry on, as well as the focus of the rider.
This type of scenario was crucial to show a horse was up for the job on a battlefield. It was a true test of endurance.
Due to its military history, women were not allowed to ride in Olympic equestrian events until 1952. However, it wasn’t until the 1964 Tokyo games that USA’s Helena du Pont was the first woman on an Eventing team.
The long format was not to last though. The next major change came to the sport in 2004 when the short format was introduced at the Athens Olympics.
This excluded all but Phase D, the cross-country phase. Now whether it was top level or grass roots, the sport of Eventing was Dressage, Jumping and Cross Country only.
To keep in line with the international format, the flagship events, The Badminton Horse Trials, The Kentucky Three Day Event and the Burghley Horse Trials all ran their last long format events in 2005. Other one-day events were already doing so.
With the endurance elements removed, there were concerns horses were going too fast across country. This has meant more technical courses have been designed to slow the pace down.
It was feared thoroughbred breeding would go into decline as their stamina was no longer required. This has proved not to be the case, with the most successful horses in the modern era having a high percentage of TB breeding.
Course designers have had to work hard to re-think their planning and ensure the result is not predicable after the Dressage.