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The Christian Equestrian's Literary "Stamp" in Type

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Horse Sports

Posted by on in Horse Sports
Submission & Results

My brother just called me to share the results of his day.  He told me that my horse Beauty and he had won 2nd place in a Team Roping event with sizable prize money and a fully tooled saddle. 

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I was thinking of Beauty's progress under my brother's training. Though only a 5 year old, for several years, we didn't think she would ever make a steady Heel horse.  Beauty was a little bit flighty and had shown herself capable of great stupidity (e.g. running through a fence, harming herself, being spooky about so much, etc.).  However, especially in the last year, Beauty's potential has sky rocketed.  

The same was for Flavia, another horse that I started in the principles of riding (like Beauty).  My brother bought this filly from me and began her training as a Heel Horse.  She was a bit of a renegade.  Yet, Flavia is now one of my brother's top athletic horses with all the talent and cow sense you could desire in a Team Roping horse.

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In many cases, I was thinking of how given enough time and with consistent training these fillies exceeded our expectations.  In our frustration or just disbelief that anything would materialize from going the extra mile with these fillies--we were ready to quit and find us something else.  Flavia I tried to practically give away at one point in her training (she reared and would literally squeal at any light leg pressure, ring her tail, etc.).  Beauty has also been up for sale in the past.  

The turning point of both Beauty and Flavia to becoming money earning contenders is their full submission to their training and their trainer who funneled their raw strengths and abilities into a purposeful plan.    

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Both began with quirks that had to be managed and worked with. Yet, those obstacles have been overcome.  Beauty and Flavia couldn't understand that we wanted them to be Heel Horses--but they had the ability to become such athletes.  We were not expecting something they could not achieve. Instead, we could detect their cow sense and agility would enable them to rise to our plans for them (even though we were ready to give up!).

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In comparison, I am so thankful the Lord does not give up on us!  He knows our full potential with His Sovereign Omnipotence.  He understands what we need in our training to achieve what He directs for us to become. I think of how we as Christians can reach our full potential by submitting ourselves to God's training of our lives. Everyone of us goes through daily rigors and all of us can face unknowns.  We can't know God's final plan for us at this moment.  But the Scriptures say that for those who love God and are the called according to His purpose--ALL things fit into a pattern for good (Romans 8:28).

Though on a much grander scale--the Lord's training of us is something we can achieve.  The Bible says that He prepares special works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).  It says that He knew us before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5).  The Bible tells us that He has a plan and purpose unique to each of our lives (Jeremiah 29:11).  He does not require more of us than we can achieve--He enables (Philippians 2:13).  Yet, "everything-that-God-wants-us-to-be" cannot be reached unless we submit to His direction and are willing to be taken in hand by the Hand that Created us and yoked with Him.

By submitting ourselves to the Lord--we have results!  The Bible promises us rest: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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Posted by on in Horse Sports
Adventurous

Photograph from the public domain

All flowing, fiery curves, the gelding charges across the grass, his ears pricked as the next giant obstacle looms before him. A solid wall standing 1.60m high, it’s a jump that would daunt most horses and petrify most riders – but not this one. The horse seems to take the height as a challenge, and his rider urges him on in the final strides before he tucks up his front legs and leaps. With a flick of his tail, he clears it with a grace that makes it look easy.

Spectators watch with bated breath, listening to the beat of the bay gelding’s hooves as he heads towards the privet hedge. He seems confident, his rider pushing him on and turning him sharply into the fence, but there’s a slight stammer in the rhythm of his feet and he jumps awkwardly. Horseflesh thumps on wood. With a rattle and a thump, the rail falls and the crowd groans. But for the horse and rider, there is no time for dismay. They’re headed straight for the Devil’s Dyke, a jump they’ve already knocked down once today. If they don’t clear it, the competition is lost.

The rider encourages his horse with every stirring of his legs against the gelding’s sides, desperate to make it, but the horse doesn’t hesitate. He tosses up his head and charges, the power of his strides screaming his refusal to make the same mistake again. Giant muscles bunch under his sleek coat and he leaps. Hearts stop, and for a moment the horse seems to float above the high rail over the ditch of water as he attempts to clear both in one leap.

And he does.

The crowd roars. The horse plunges joyously away from the newly conquered obstacle and now there is no stopping him. Fence after mighty fence are left behind; he eats up the ground, swinging left, then right at the expert guidance of his rider. At last, he gallops through the finish and all eyes turn to the board where their time will be displayed: 85.17 seconds. 0.02 seconds faster than their closest competition. As the horse slows to a triumphant trot, his rider falls on his neck, hugging him, rejoicing.

Later, they stand in the winner’s circle, accepting the beautiful trophy that tells the world that Irishman Trevor Breen and the Belgian warmblood Adventure de Kannan have just won the British Jumping Derby, informally known as the Hickstead Derby, arguably the most prestigious single showjumping event in the world. Draped with flowers and showered with applause, the gelding stands proudly beside his rider. Every inch of him glows; his bay coat shines copper in the sun, muscles filling his outline with power. He is perfect in every way, except for one thing. As he turns his head from side to side, only one bright brown eye looks out of his noble face. On the other side, there is nothing – just a dark and empty socket where his right eye should be.

Interviewers ask Trevor Breen what it is that makes Adventure de Kannan so special. How did he become the first one-eyed horse ever to win the Derby?

Breen doesn’t miss a beat. “His heart,” he says instantly. According to him, it was Adventure de Kannan’s courage, will to win, and willingness to do anything his rider asks of him that makes him “a phenomenal horse, the horse of a lifetime”. Talented as he is, “Addy” would never have made it through all the setbacks that he did – losing his eye to surgery following an infection in 2013, an injured suspensory ligament not long afterwards, and a kick in the warmup ring only the previous day – without his inner qualities.

It is proven once again that it’s heart, above all else, that makes a truly special horse.

 

This is true not only for horses. How many of us know of people we deem more beautiful than we are? And upon what do we base our assumptions? We allow ourselves to feel inferior to people who are thinner or richer or better dressed than we are, people with the right hairdo and the right skin tone and the right job and the right education, without realising that we are all beautiful – fearfully and wonderfully made by the love of God (see Psalm 139:14). And it is more than just physical beauty or great circumstances that makes one special. For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh upon the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Deeper things than beauty or opportunities make one special. Meekness, faith, gentleness, courage, kindness, hope, love above all – anything that is a part of Jesus’s perfect example to us – these are what really matter. The truest beauty of a human being lies in a redeemed soul filled with Jesus Christ.

Just like Adventure de Kannan, whose guts and generosity helped him to win the Hickstead Derby despite his scars, his handicap and the disfigurement of that gaping hole in his face, you can triumph over any obstacle that stands in your way, by the grace of God. He will fill you with everything you need not only to survive, but to thrive. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7). You can do all things through Christ, your strength (Philippians 4:13).

Glory to the King.

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Posted by on in Horse Sports
The Survivor

Photos from the public domain

True Prospect Farm, Memorial Day, 2011. The stables are on fire.

Boyd Martin sprints towards the flaming stable, his ears filled with the screams of burning horses. His world is chaotic with smoke and sirens. Firemen, family members, the barn owner – their faces blur as he staggers into the yard and stares. Nothing matters except for the fire, and the terrible shrieks of the dying horses inside.

Martin knows and loves those horses; he’s trained them, ridden them and competed on them for years as an international event rider, arguably the best in the USA. He spins around, looking at the charred and frightened horses that have already been dragged into the yard, and knows that many of them are still in there. The firemen are too mindful of the flames to do more than direct jets of water from the fire engines onto the burning stable.

But even though he knows better, Martin can’t just stand there. He dashes towards the fire. Firemen try to stop him, but his mind is filled with his friends the horses, and he shoves them aside as he staggers into the bellowing furnace that the familiar stable has become. Smoke clogs his lungs, sets his eyes to streaming; he throws up a hand to shield his face from the heat that starts to singe his skin. He can’t call out. He can hardly breathe. But he hears a gurgling sound nearby, a noise that barely resembles the breathing of a horse, and moves towards it. Careening into a stable door, he can barely make out the dark form of a horse through the smoke. He kicks the door open and stumbles into something muscular and living. Running his hands up the horse’s neck, his fingers find an anti-cribbing collar and instantly he is taken back nine years to the day he first set eyes on Neville Bardos.

 

Stables of Gordon Bishop, 2002. “This horse,” Bishop announces disdainfully, “is no good as a jumper.”

Martin doesn’t reply, watching thoughtfully as the horse moves across the arena with his long, gawky stride. He looks every inch what he is – an adolescent: only three years old, the gelding barely knows where his long legs end. Freshly off the racetrack, the chestnut thoroughbred stands a gangly 16.1 hands and none of them are working together. His rider tries to kick and pull him into order, but he just sets his teeth against the bit, flattens his ears and does what he wants, rolling a rebellious, white-rimmed eye. When he comes towards Martin, the long crooked blaze down his face makes his head look like the nose is on skew.

The rider tries to make him stop. The horse puts his head down and keeps going. The rider pulls with all his might, and eventually the horse flops to a halt with his head in the air, still rolling that fiery eye.

“No, no, no, and no!” the rider cries, jumping off the horse and tossing his reins at Bishop. “I’m not buying this.” With that, he stalks off.

“That’s it.” Bishop gives the horse a glare. “It’s the glue factory for you, Neville Bardos.”

Martin, who has been looking quietly into the horse’s eyes, says, “I’ll give you eight fifty.”

He nearly regretted spending that $850, too. At Neville’s first event, he’d thrown Martin’s wife, Silva, by the second fence and held up the course for fifteen minutes while they tried to catch him. He was hot and lively and opinionated; he had to wear a cribbing collar because he windsucked continuously. But with Martin in the saddle, things changed. By 2011, Neville had competed at many prestigious CCI**** events and had been shortlisted for the Beijing Olympics. Burghley Horse Trials in England, one of the toughest events in the entire equestrian world, was the next step.

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But here, in this burning stable, Burghley seems very far away. There is only smoke, and heat, and the terrible gasping rattle of Neville’s breathing. Martin tugs on the cribbing collar, croaking out encouragement, but the horse can barely stay on his feet, let alone walk. He sways where he stands, each breath sounding like it may be his last.

Then, out of the smoke, a pale face emerges: Olympian Phillip Dutton, Martin’s trainer and the barn owner. “Pull his head that way!” Dutton croaks, putting his arm around Neville’s chest. Martin pulls, trying to force his burning throat into forming words of reassurance, and Dutton urges Neville on. The horse takes a staggering step, then another. The two choking men and terrified horse reel down the aisle, leaning on one another, and fighting for every step.

At last the sweetness of fresh air fills Martin’s lungs and he lets go of the collar, letting Neville wobble away from the flames. Martin tries to go back to the stable for another of the six horses still inside, but smoke makes his head spin and he only just makes it back out onto the yard, where he sprawls on the grass and groans for air. Nearby, Neville Bardos stands with his legs straddled, fighting to stay upright. Later, vets will say that with the levels of oxygen in Neville’s bloodstream as low as they were, he should never have been on his feet; but on his feet he was, and on his feet he stayed as they rushed him to veterinary hospital. Martin would stand amazed as his horse continued to stand, to eat, to windsuck, and to fight for his life.

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By the grace of God, no humans were severely injured. But six horses’ lives had been lost to the inferno. And for a while vets and trainers feared that Neville would become the seventh horse to die. His windpipe had been charred to the point of bleeding; just breathing was agony, let alone moving around. Martin doubted the horse would ever compete again, and gave up his dreams of Burghley, which would take place just weeks later.

But with the aid of a high-oxygen chamber, Neville healed at an astounding rate. Soon, boredom started to chafe at the horse’s nerves and Martin decided to ride him; Neville loved it, and improved at such a rapid pace that suddenly Burghley didn’t look so far away after all.

It wasn’t. Neville would go on to compete at Burghley Horse Trials in September, only seventeen weeks after the devastating fire. Not only did he and Martin compete, but they completed a clear round across country and ended up placing seventh overall. In January 2012, Neville Bardos would be named USEF’s 2011 Horse of the Year. It was generally agreed that this was a well-deserved accolade.

 

If this was not a true story, it would be deemed impossible for a horse so badly injured to bounce back so quickly and completely that he could compete at one of the most taxing events in the equestrian world. Neville was more than hurt, he was dying; it was enough to kill most horses, and it was fully expected that he would retire from competition. And yet months later he was as fit, strong, and well as he had ever been.

The success has been attributed to many things – Neville’s courage, the expert care of the vets, the oxygen chamber. And though these doubtlessly played a role, it was God’s amazing design of the horse’s system and the natural healing process that did the most. More than that, it was His plan. The Lord can do anything He chooses; nothing is too big or too hard or too unlikely for Him (Jer. 32:17). The healing of a sick horse is but a little miracle compared to what He can do. Today, Neville Bardos stands as a shining example of the fact that with God, all things are possible (Matt. 19:26).

Glory to the King.

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Posted by on in Horse Sports
The Failure

Stables of Chilean Army Captain Gaspar Lueje, 1947. The horse moved around the enclosure at a trot so nervous that his limbs jerked like something mechanical. Fear stole his grace. At every stride, his left hind leg gave an awkward little flick, a remnant of the injury that had left a puckered scar on his flank.

Faithful was good for nothing, and not even so good-for-nothing that he was in any way unique. Just another chestnut stallion, a racehorse wannabe who never had the speed, a dressage prospect who was too much of a handful; sixteen-one hands of bad habits and worse experiences, permanently on the verge of panicking.

The Army horsemaster paused in his casual stroll across the yard to watch regretfully as the horse proceeded at his clumsy gait, both ears pinned flat and one bad-tempered eye trained on the handler that stood in the centre of the ring. The bars all the way around were more than two metres high, and the horse moved so close to them that his ribs bumped against every upright. He was a sorry sight, the stereotype of the racehorse that hadn’t made it. He was a failure.

Shaking his head sadly, the horsemaster turned away to continue on his path. Then, behind him, a whip cracked. The sound snapped through the stumbling beats of Faithful’s hooves. The horsemaster heard all four hooves strike the ground in a staccato rhythm so fast that the horse had to be moving at a full gallop. He whirled around and stared as Faithful headed straight for the two-metre fence of the ring. The handler shouted, but it served only to egg the horse on; head thrown high, he plunged towards the fence. The horsemaster felt his throat tighten as the horse came too close to the fence to stop in time. He was going to try to jump it, but he would never make the leap; those long thin legs would catch the top bar and snap like matchsticks.

The horse was too afraid to care. Huge muscles bunched in his hindquarters, knees tucked up to his chest, and with his long neck stretched out, Faithful leapt. It was as if metamorphosis took place in a split second. The stumbling caterpillar of a stallion transformed, in a breath, into a floating butterfly. He jumped as if the ground was his own trampoline, sailing into the air with an effortless grace that squeezed the horsemaster’s heart. It lasted only an instant. Faithful drifted over the fence, struck the ground and became once again a panicking animal. He bolted, stable hands and trainers scuttling in all directions to catch him.

“Hey, boy!” the horsemaster shouted. A stable boy slid to a halt near him and saluted. “Sir!”

The horsemaster nodded towards Faithful, who was now shying from one side to the other as men shouted and waved their arms, trying to corner him. “Catch me that horse and fetch me his owner. I’m going to buy him.”

 

February 5, 1949. Viña del Mar, Chile. The tension was so great that the crowd was silent, staring into the arena, breath bated. They could sense that history was ready to be made as, in the arena, a lone horse and rider circled a single fence.

The crowd sized them up with a mixture of hope and pessimistic realism. At almost two and a half metres, the fence stood far taller than the top of the horse’s ears, a formidable slanting construction of solid poles so close together that they were difficult to see through, and taller than any horse on record had ever cleared.

If any horse looked fit to break the record, though, it was this one. Sixteen hands of pure muscle that moved with drifting grace, the horse was the colour of beaten copper. His coat caught the sunlight dazzlingly, mane and tail rippling as he ran. His rider moved with him as if horse and man were one body, directing the horse’s movements with tiny, confident touches of his hands and legs. Captain Alberto Larraguibel and the sixteen-year-old thoroughbred Huaso looked ready to take on the world.

And it was the world record they were after: to clear the highest fence ever jumped by horse and rider.

It was time. The Captain spoke to his horse, ran a hand down his neck, turned him towards the fence and urged him into a faster canter. Huaso’s strides extended, his ears pricked forward. He stretched out his neck and surged onwards, his rider crouched in anticipation for the leap, and at the last moment, some uncertainty wavered in the rider’s hands and Huaso hesitated. A breath away from the fence, he stuck his legs out straight and slid to a halt.

The crowd gave a collective groan. The Captain gripped his whip as if to punish the horse for the refusal, then thought better of it. He reached out and patted Huaso’s neck reassuringly. It was, after all, uncertain if any horse was capable of jumping that height; and yet the Captain believed that if any horse could, it was the brave stallion he rode.

“Come on, Huaso. We still have two chances left.” The Captain touched Huaso with his legs and the stallion strode into a powerful canter, circled once and came back towards the fence. This time there was no room for hesitation. The Captain tipped his weight forward, raised himself in the saddle, knowing that if Huaso stopped now he would throw his rider headfirst into the wooden poles. But Huaso rewarded his rider’s trust by trusting him back. He collected himself, stretched out his neck and leapt upwards with the effortless grace that the Captain knew so well. Adrenalin surged through the Captain’s veins as the horse sailed through the air for an impossibly long moment, tucking his knees right up to his chin – but as he came down the Captain felt a slight wavering in his hindquarters and heard the rattle as the top pole was rolled off. Huaso thudded down, and the pole came with him.

The Captain’s heart fluttered in his chest as Huaso circled once more for the final try. The crowd murmured; the air was tight with tension. Sweating and worried, the mighty stallion tossed his head and struck at the ground with his forefeet as if annoyed. The Captain soothed him with a hand on his neck, breathed deeply and made himself calm down.

“One last time, old horse. For me.”

They powered towards the jump. This was the last attempt. The Captain forced himself to be unafraid, to place all of his trust in the horse and his ability. “Now, Huaso!” At the right instant, Huaso tucked up his knees and floated into the air.

The moment seemed to last a lifetime as the poles flitted past beneath them and Huaso flew towards the apex of the leap. The Captain would not, could not glance down; the height was too terrifying, and he knew that at this moment he could not tremble. Finally, the edge of the jump, the ground below, Huaso stretched out his front legs, the Captain balanced his weight backwards and the stallion landed, throwing down his head and neck for balance, staggering forward, then gaining his momentum and cantering gracefully onwards with head and tail flung high.

There was absolute silence. The Captain had heard nothing fall, but his heart leapt with anxiety. He looked over his shoulder and saw the jump standing intact, the 2.47 metres that no horse had ever cleared before.

“Huaso, Huaso, we did it, old horse!”

Then the noise erupted. The crowds pressed around them, flags everywhere, photographers, people laughing and cheering. It was a blur of sound and colour, and the Captain could not stop smiling even as he stroked Huaso’s neck to keep him calm.

At last, the peace and quiet of Huaso’s stall. The Captain slid off him and stroked the smooth red shoulder, leaving a white lather in the sweat on the horse’s coat. Huaso sighed loudly and shook his mane, relaxing.

“Oh, Huaso. You fine, fine creature.” The Captain patted the solid curve of muscle that was Huaso’s neck. “Who would ever have thought it? Two years ago you did not look like half the horse you are now.” He ran his hand down the horse’s side and across his flank, his fingers tracing the black, puckered scar. “But perhaps your old name did suit you better, didn’t it? Our new world record holder for the high jump… Faithful.”

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The true story of Huaso, earlier known as Faithful, the horse whose world record of 2.47m still stands sixty-five years later, serves to remind us that being thrown away doesn’t make something worthless. Huaso was a reject of the racing industry, a failed dressage horse; in fact, he even failed at jumping for a while.

But all it took was for somebody to see the beauty in him, to take him in hand and have the patience to train him and bring out the best in him, and the failure of a horse became a world-class athlete.

Many of us are much the same as Huaso. Broken, beaten down, tired of life and afraid of shadows. But there is still greatness in us, for the God Who made us all, made us all fearfully and wonderfully. And He knows what potential is in us and exactly how to make us live to our full potential and be everything He intended for us to be. If we can only be willing, trusting, obedient and faithful, He will make us into the best people we can possibly be. We can surprise even ourselves if we give our lives to Him.

Glory to the King.

 

*   *   *

Huaso and the Captain break the world record:

 

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The Olympic Disciplines: Part III - Eventing

The Olympics: for many sports, the pinnacle of international competition. One of the most popular sporting events in the world, the Olympics are what thousands of sportsmen and –women aspire to.

Of our many disciplines, only three have made it to the Olympics. Unfortunately for Western riders, all these disciplines are English: showjumping, dressage, and eventing.

The series concludes with this article on what many consider the greatest test of a horse’s training and talent: the three-day event, also known as eventing.

Eventing Basics

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Eventing consists of three phases: dressage, cross-country jumping, and showjumping (also known as stadium jumping in the USA). These phases can all be done in one day at small shows (one-day events), but the international format is done over three days, hence the term three-day event.

The first day of the event starts with dressage. While it is not done at as high a level as at pure dressage competitions, it is still a challenging test and designed to test the horse’s obedience, suppleness, balance and schooling, as well as the rider’s position and subtlety.

Cross-country is ridden on the second day and is regarded as the high point of the event. This extremely demanding task is something like showjumping in that a prescribed course of fences have to be cleared in the right order and within a time limit (going over the limit incurs time penalties). However, the course is far longer; while most showjumping courses consist of less than twenty fences and take under two minutes to complete, cross-country can have as many as forty fences and take up to ten or fifteen minutes. As well as jumping, the horses are expected to gallop up and down hills and through difficult terrain. The jumps themselves are rustic and often look solid, and the approach and landing could be on hills or in water. Cross-country is highly dangerous and requires courage from both horse and rider. It tests stamina, heart, speed, and the horse’s adaptability to different situations.

On the final day, a showjumping course is ridden. It is the same as ordinary showjumping, although the jumps are slightly lower than at pure showjumping competitions. This phase is a final test of the horse’s stamina and willingness, as well as its agility and speed.

Penalties are added up from all three phases and compared at the end of the event. The horse and rider with the lowest number of penalties are the winners of the competition.

Eventing Origins

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Eventing originated as a military test of soldiers and their warhorses. The earlier forms of eventing were much more taxing on the horse and rider; while the showjumping and dressage phases may have been a little easier, the cross-country phase was far longer. As well as the cross-country jumping, it also included a roads and tracks phase at which the horse and rider had to proceed at a set pace of four miles an hour along a series of tracks, as well as a steeplechase phase where the horse and rider had to gallop and jump along a simple course as fast as possible.

The roads and tracks and steeplechase phases were omitted in the late twentieth century, and cross-country fences were also made somewhat safer. While most cross-country fences are still relatively solid, and have to be jumped with extreme care to avoid hitting the fence and causing horse and rider to fall, parts of them are now made of loose blocks and can be knocked over if a horse touches them.

Eventing was a perfect test of the warhorse. The dressage tested its manoeuvrability and obedience, necessary in tight battle situations; the cross country tested its courage and stamina, for long marches or urgent rides to deliver messages or flee from an enemy; and the showjumping tested its willingness to work and try its best even when tired.

Eventing Horses

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As with showjumping, the original eventer was a Thoroughbred; in his book Horses are Made to be Horses, Franz Mairinger even insisted that a top eventer could only be a Thoroughbred. And although Warmblood, Arabian, and Irish Sport Horse blood has been introduced, the majority of top event horses have plenty of Thoroughbred blood.

While the Thoroughbred’s natural athleticism and courage make him a wonderful cross-country horse, some lack the trainability, suppleness and graceful movement for dressage and showjumping. And while many top eventers are Thoroughbreds – such has Exponential, Neville Bardos, Biko, and Priceless – most eventers now are Thoroughbreds crossed with breeds such as the Warmblood, Irish Sport Horse, and Arabian. The famous Tamarillo, ridden by William Fox-Pitt, was an Anglo Arabian, and double Olympic gold medallist, World Champion and European Champion Michael Jung’s horse Sam FBW is a Warmblood of German lines crossed with a Thoroughbred.

Eventing and Royalty

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Eventing has the curious feature of being the sport of choice of English royalty for generations. England’s The Princess Royal (known as Princess Anne), her husband Mark Phillips, and her daughter, Zara Phillips, have evented at Olympic level. While Mark Phillips and Princess Anne’s eventing days are behind them, Zara Phillips is still active at international competitions and a huge favourite with British crowds. It was to mighty applause that she contributed to England’s team silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics on her horse High Kingdom. Princess Anne, however, took a fall at the 1986 Olympic Games (which was the first Olympics in which a member of British royalty took part), but went on to finish the event on the Queen’s horse, Goodwill. She was more successful in the European Eventing Championship, where she won individual gold on Doublet in 1971. Thirty-four years later in 2005 her daughter Zara would go on to win the same medal on Toytown.

Eventing for Everyone

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Eventing is not so freely available as showjumping or dressage. Cross-country courses are few and far between and most people find themselves having to trailer their horses out to clinics or practice days in order to get any training over the cross-country fences. However, the one-day event provides a more convenient option for the low-level competitor and is available in most countries.

This discipline requires more time, training and effort than showjumping or dressage, and can be much more expensive at the higher levels, as different equipment is needed for the different phases. It remains a fantastic test of horse and rider and one that brings a great sense of achievement to competitors. Ideal for the hardworking rider who likes a challenge, while eventing is perhaps not so technically difficult as showjumping or dressage, it is the pinnacle of all-round excellence and versatility in the equine world.

Eventing as a Celebration of Creation

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Like any other sport, eventing celebrates the careful design of the body and mind. God constructed the horse in such a way that it is strong enough to carry a rider over high obstacles, fast enough to sprint between the jumps, agile enough to turn tight corners from one fence to the next, intelligent enough to learn the graceful movements of dressage, and enduring enough to do all of these in three days. He gave the horse long legs and a deep chest with massive nostrils, enabling him to drink in great gulps of air to drive him over long distances at great speeds. He designed the circulatory system of the horse so perfectly that each of its feet acts as an extra heart, helping to pump blood up the legs and keep them moving fast and far. He gave the horse an excellent memory to remember all the different aids of dressage and a graceful bearing to execute them with ease. And then He gave the horse to us, His beloved, created human beings.

And when that big, brave horse thunders through the water, flinging spray in all directions as he gathers himself for the leap, with his rider trusting this huge beast to obey and urging him on in the full confidence of their combined prowess, one cannot help but glorify the God Who made it all possible. He alone allows us to achieve the feats that these Olympic disciplines demand of us. Even the greatest of riders and the most wonderful of horses would be nothing without Him. All glory goes to God.

 

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