How does the scoring work in Eventing?

 Eventing scoring explained

Ever wondered how the scoring works for all three phases of eventing? Kim explains all in this week’s blog about yet another aspect of this enigma that alludes many of us…that is until now!

Dressage Phase

All competitors must ride the same set series of movements. This is known as the 'dressage test'. It’s ridden between markers in a dressage arena measuring 20m x 60m. There are different tests of varying difficulty for different levels of eventing. In three day eventing, the test is judged by three judges who sit at different points around the arena.

The test is made up of a number of movements, each of which has a maximum score of 10. As with all dressage tests, there are also 'collective marks' awarded, again out of 10, for the Paces, Impulsion, Submission, and for the Rider. The scores of all the judges are totted up and an average score is produced. This is expressed in two ways:

  • as a percentage or ‘Good Mark’ so that the spectators can see how well each rider has performed. The average score from the judges is simply expressed as a percentage
  • as a Penalty Score or ‘Bad Mark’. The Penalty Score is calculated by: (Average good marks percentage – 100 + errors) x a ‘coefficient’. The coefficient is set by the Sport’s Governing Body, the FEI, and is designed in such a way that prevents a competitor winning on one phase alone.

Cross Country Phase

Speed is of the essence in this phase. Each horse and rider combination need to finish the course within a certain time limit, or the ‘optimum time' as it is more familiarly known in eventing. It is deliberately difficult to achieve and is announced on the day of the competition for that particular course. A time limit of twice the optimum time is also imposed. Exceeding this time limit carries automatic elimination. For example at a BE80(T) competition, horse and rider need to be travelling at 435 metres per minute, to come within the optimum time. Crossing the finish line after the optimum time results in time penalties for each second over.

Penalty points for the Cross Country phase are outlined below.

Error on the Course Number of Penalties
If the rider falls off (national competitions only), they can remount and carry on. If they fall a second time, the rider is eliminated Elimination
Refusal, run-out, or circle at an obstacle 20
Second refusal, run-out, circle at the same obstacle 40
Third refusal, run-out, circle on XC Course Elimination
Exceeding Optimum Time  0.4 penalties per second
Coming in under Optimum Time  0.4 penalties per second
Exceeding the Time Limit , i.e. twice the optimum time  Elimination
Fall of horse (shoulder touches the ground)  Mandatory Retirement

Showjumping Phase

Whilst jumps are much smaller than for 'pure' show jumping, it is important to remember that event horses, trained to gallop over fixed timber, often have little respect for knock-down poles. This can make show jumping the most challenging and daunting phase for many event riders.

Jumping takes place in reverse order of merit. So for three day events, the rider in first place after cross country goes last, hopefully to jump the final round of the competition to win!

This phase is also timed, with penalties being given for every second over the time set by the course designer.

Penalty points for Showjumping are outlined below.

Error on the Course Number of Penalties
Knocking down an obstacle 
First disobedience (refusal, run-out, circle, stepping backwards)  4
Second disobedience  8
Third disobedience  Elimination
First fall of rider  8
Second fall of rider  Elimination
More than 24 jumping penalties  Compulsory Retirement
Fall of horse  Elimination
Exceeding the time allowed  1 penalty per second
Jumping an obstacle in the wrong order Elimination

Final Score

The penalty points of all the phases are added up to produce a final total. The winner is the horse and rider with the lowest number of penalty points.

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Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.

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