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Dressage, which means "training" in French, is a competition demonstrating a horse and rider's ability to perform together precisely and effortlessly in a non-jumping format.  When performed at its best, dressage is very graceful, and is sometimes referred to as "Horse Ballet".  Each horse and rider in a given class ride the same "test", which is a prescribed set of gaits and movements.  Each movement is scored by a judge or judges on its degree of quality, and the sum of these individual scores make up the competitor's score for that class or "test".  In Dressage (as opposed to Eventing, described below), the highest score wins the competition.  I usually compete in one or two dressage shows every year.

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Show Jumping involves riding a horse over a  series of jumps in a prescribed order in a confined area, such as an indoor arena, an outdoor arena, or a small field.  The goal of the competition is to go over all of the jumps without knocking down a rail  or stopping at a jump, and also complete this course within a certain specified time.  Show jumping is scored with "faults" or points assigned to mistakes such as knocking down a rail, stopping before a jump, or taking longer than the assigned time to complete the course.  Like golf, the lower the final score, the better.  A score of zero is perfect.  I also compete in one or two jumping shows every year.

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Irish Odyssey Cross Country

©Photo by L. Chaudoir-Nye of Xpress Foto

©Photo by L. Chaudoir-Nye of Xpress Foto

Eventing, also known as "Three Day Eventing", and "Combined Training" is my true passion, and what I compete in the most throughout the year.  In its essence, it is a triathlon for horse and rider, made up of slightly modified versions of Dressage and Show Jumping (referred to in Eventing as "Stadium Jumping" because it is performed in a confined "stadium"), together with the signature aspect of Eventing, Cross-Country Jumping.  In the Cross-Country Phase, the horse and rider negotiate a rather long course through fields and woods, jumping a series of jumps, again in a specified order.  As with Show Jumping, the goal is to go over all of the jumps without stopping or avoiding them, then finish the entire course within a specified amount of time.  Like Show Jumping, Eventing is scored with "faults" or points assigned for errors (the dressage phase is scored inversely to the system used in strictly Dressage competitions).  The competitor with the lowest total score at the end of the three phases is the winner.  Almost always, Eventing competitions (frequently referred to as "Horse Trials") start with Dressage.  In the more traditional format, this is followed by the Cross-Country phase, with the Stadium Jumping phase providing the dramatic climax, determining who will ultimately win the entire competition.  At some competitions, however, logistics demand that the order of the Cross-Country and Stadium Jumping be reversed.  I personally love Eventing because it demands the utmost of skill in all areas of riding.

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