A Brief History of Eventing
The Chronicle of the Horse recently ran live streaming of a “horsemanship” clinic given by George Morris, the soi-disant father of modern hunt-seat equitation. Morris is quoted saying that “riding is a cavalry sport”, and that young riders need to learn to ride “tough”. Ironically, his entire clinic was taught in a carefully raked, fenced-in arena, with horses being asked to jump from carefully measured strides over carefully built fences.
Back when I was around cavalry horses, being cavalry meant that you rode in the open, cross-country, over hills and dales and ditches and logs and stray animals and anything that came into your path. You didn’t count strides into a fence; you judged the fence (or, if you were lucky, you let your horse worry about that aspect of jumping). Eventing is truly a cavalry sport, but arena jumping is not.
Eventing evolved from a test of a cavalry staff officer’s charger. In a time when horses were the fastest means of communication on a battlefield, the officer’s charger had to be well-behaved enough to stand quietly (amid the chaos of a battlefield) while the officer got his orders and made sure he understood them. Then the charger had to gallop full-tilt across country to take the message to wherever it had to go. Stopping to open gates, or find a hole in a hedge, wasted precious time, so the charger had to deal with ditches, banks, drops, verticals, oxers, what have you. Finally, when the message was delivered, the charger had to be brave enough to go back and do it again.
Men being men, and therefore competitive, they created a sport where you could test the all-around ability, stamina and sense of any particular horse, and thus was born the three-day event.
Tomorrow, my thoughts on what the three-day event has become over the years!