Sunday, March 15, 2015

Eventing Explained: Scoring

This post series goes over various aspects of the sport of Eventing. I hope to cover everything from the basics to the finer points, and help distinguish between rules and traditions. 
If you have a specific topic you'd like me to cover, please leave a comment or email me!

Post Edit/Clarification: This is for USEA competitions.

Eventing competitions are scored with penalty points. The competitor with the lowest combined score from dressage, cross country, and stadium jumping wins the division.

Just like in USDF dressage competitions, the judge fills out score cards using a positive points system. Each movement has a maximum 10 points, and you want a high number for each movement. The total is converted to a percentage and then subtracted from 100 to get your score in penalty points.

Example. BN Test A has 14 movements (one with a x2 coefficient) and 4 collective marks, for a total of 190 points. If a rider earned 7 (out of 10) for every movement, they'd have 133 points out of 190.
133 / 190 = 0.7 = 70%
100 - 70 = 30
This person's dressage score is 30 points.

Cross Country
Penalty points on cross country are acquired through jump faults and time faults.  Jump faults come from disobediences at an obstacle (run-outs, refusals, and circling), rider falls, and willful delay.

For disobediences, the scoring is as follows:
  1. First refusal, run-out, or circle: 20 penalty points.
  2. Second disobedience at the same obstacle: 40 penalty points.
  3. Third disobedience at the same obstacle: elimination.
For BN through Training levels, you can have a total of 3 disobediences throughout the entire course and finish with a score; the 4th disobedience is elimination. For Preliminary and above, you can have a total of 2 disobediences throughout the course; the 3rd is elimination.

Rider Falls are permitted in BN and N levels only, and result in 65 penalty points. The rider must land on their feet and remain standing; otherwise they are eliminated.

Willful Delay (BN through Training levels only) comes with 20 penalty points and is when a horse halts, walks, circles, or serpentines between the last fence and the finish line. Note that trotting is permitted between the last fence and the finish flags, and halting, walking, circling, or serpentining is allowed anywhere else on course. 

Time faults result from exceeding the Optimum Time, and come with 0.4 penalty points per second. For BN through Training levels, you can accrue speed faults by going too fast: these are 0.4 penalty points for each second under the Speed Fault Time.

Example. The BN rider has run-out at jump #3, two refusals at jump #6, and a rider fall at jump #10, and comes in 1 minute over the optimum time:
Run-out at jump #3: 20 points
First refusal at jump #6: 20 points
Second refusal at jump #6: 40 points
Rider Fall at jump #10: 65 points
Time faults: 60 seconds x 0.4 points/second = 24 points.
Total cross country score: 169 points.

Total dressage and cross country score: 30 + 169 = 199.

Stadium Jumping
Like XC, stadium jumping has penalty points for jump faults and time faults. Jump faults include knocking an obstacle down while jumping and disobediences (run-outs, refusals, and circling).

  • Knocking down an obstacle while jumping results in 4 penalty points. Note, it doesn't matter if you knock down 1 pole or all the poles at one obstacle (jump) - it's still only 4 points.
  • First disobedience: 4 points.
  • Second disobedience (anywhere on course): 8 points (BN through Training only; Elimination for Prelim and above).
  • Exceeding the time allowed results in 1 penalty point for reach second or fraction of a second.

Example.  The BN rider has 1 refusal at jump #2 and a run-out at jump #6 and comes in 9 seconds over the time allowed:
Refusal at jump #2: 4 points
Run-out at jump #6: 8 points
Time faults: 9 seconds x 1 point/second = 9 points.
Total stadium jumping score:  21 points.

Final score (dressage + cross country + stadium jumping): 30 + 169 + 21 = 220.

Letter Scores
Our example BN rider didn't do so great, but still "ended with a number instead of a letter."  Letters on the final scoring represent the team not completing the competition. Certain types of elimination get their own letter designation for official record-keeping. Letter scores are:

E - Elimination
TE - Technical Elimination (error due to rider mistake such as skipping a jump)
RF - Rider Fall
R - Retirement (competitor retires from the competition while on course).
W - Withdrawal (competitor withdraws from competition before one of the phases).
MR - Mandatory Retirement (horse fall, or horse trapped in jump).
NA (or X) - Not Accepted at a horse inspection (CIC, CCI, and Classic 3-day events only).

Eventing Score Records can be found online at Let's take a look at the recently completed Twin Rivers Winter Horse Trials in Paso Robles, CA:

In this division, the first place rider maintained their lead through the competition. However, only 1 rider was able to finish on their dressage score (by having no jump or time faults in either jumping phase) and she moved up from 9th to 4th.  This division's scoring shows how important each phase is determining final placings.

Detailed Cross Country Results:

You can see here that jumps #4 and #6 caused problems for 2 different riders, and one chose to retire after their 2nd disobedience while the other was eliminated for getting a 3rd disobedience. Interesting to note that rider #34 came in exactly on Optimum Time, whereas rider #26 came in 1 second over time and #23 came in 1 second under time.

Questions and clarifications welcomed!!  Please comment!

USEA/USEF Rulebook
USEA Scoring Guidelines for Eventing

Previous Eventing Explained posts:
Competition Levels


  1. It'll be interesting to see how the horrible frangible pin dispute works out. That'll be bad news bears for everyone if the FEI gets its way.

    1. I agree! And your commend reminded me to clarify this post is for USEA competitions - thanks.

  2. This is super helpful! Thanks for breaking it down so much and with examples. I had the general idea, but now I understand the scoring.

  3. This is fantastic! I kind of understood--but I didn't get the reasoning. This helps so much!

  4. Oh, thank you for this! I know a little bit about Eventing, but this really clarified things for me. Thanks!!

  5. Loved this! Very easy to understand. You might add at the bottom there with the detailed xc results how a tie is determined (closest to optimum xc score w/o going over). I always wondered about that and just recently learned how a tie across the board is determined :-) Thanks again for a great article!