Story: Equestrianism and horse sports

Page 4. Eventing and endurance

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Eventing is a one-day or three-day contest, both for individual horse–rider combinations and for teams. Approximately 1,500 horses were registered with Equestrian Sports New Zealand to compete in eventing in 2011. There are three phases of the competition, and the winner is the competitor with the lowest total penalty points at the completion of all three.


The dressage test consists of a series of compulsory movements which are individually judged. The totals are then converted to a penalty score.


This is the focus of the competition and takes place on a specially designed course on natural terrain. Competitors jump the solidly built fences as well as various obstacles such as ponds, ditches and banks. Horses refusing to jump the obstacles, or exceeding the time allowed, receive penalty points. There have been rule changes over the years to make cross-country safer. In the 2000s a fall of either the horse or rider meant elimination.


Finally, a showjumping round takes place. In three-day eventing, it occurs on the final day, and after the gruelling cross-country of the previous day some horses may not be fit enough to contest this last phase. The objective is to leave all the jumps in place within the time allowed.

A champion pair

Mark Todd said of Charisma, his Olympic gold medal mount: ‘Good horses come and go but I have been lucky enough to have one who can truly be called a champion – Charisma – and they only come along once in a lifetime.’1

Mark Todd

Mark Todd was a pioneer of three-day eventing in New Zealand, and part of the first national team to contest a world championship, in 1978. He has won numerous eventing championships during his career, but is best known for the two Olympic individual gold medals he won on his famous horse, Charisma, in 1984 and 1988. He was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and was voted FEI Event Rider of the 20th Century by the International Equestrian Federation in 2000.

Endurance events

Endurance rides and clubs have been organised in New Zealand since the 1970s, with about 500 horses actively competing in 2011. There are two types of competition held in New Zealand.


Endurance is a controlled long-distance race varying in length between 25 and 160 kilometres. Horses are monitored at designated checkpoints to ensure that they are fit enough to continue. There are also mandatory rests or ‘holds’ during the race. Although competitors strive for the fastest time, the winner is determined only when the horse has passed a final veterinary inspection.

Competitive trail riding

Competitive trail riding (CTR) is a scored event that tests the ability of the competitor to ride a marked course in optimum time. On finishing the course, the horse’s heart rate is added to any time faults from finishing early or late for a final score. The competitor with the lowest score is the winner.

  1. Mark Todd, Charisma, London: Threshold Books, 1989, p. 5. Back
How to cite this page:

Carolyn Mincham, 'Equestrianism and horse sports - Eventing and endurance', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 4 February 2023)

Story by Carolyn Mincham, published 5 Sep 2013