There are three separate disciplines in Olympic equestrian competition: dressage, evening, and jumping, Each discipline has an individual and team competition. Additionally, eventing combines the results of three distinct disciplines (dressage, cross country and jumping) to determine an overall score.
Equestrian is the only Olympic sport involving animals, and one of few in which men and women compete head to head.
Fifteen teams of three athlete/horse combinations compete three different tests (detailed below). Each discipline’s competition (or test) takes place on consecutive days in this order: dressage, cross country, jumping. The results of each event count toward both the eventing team and individual events.
Final ranking in each event is based on the combined total of penalty points from all tests (so the team with the lowest number of penalty points wins). After the three tests, team medals are awarded.
- Dressage: set of compulsory movements that evaluate the horse’s obedience, flexibility and harmony with the athlete. Judges award marks for each movement and the total score is converted into penalty points. Start order is determined by a draw.
- Cross country: consists of one test in which each athlete/horse combination attempts to complete the course without jumping errors in a set amount of time. Athletes receive penalties for faults at obstacles or excess time. Penalty points are added to the penalty points from the dressage test and carried forward to the jumping test. The test takes roughly 10 minutes. Start order remains the same as for the Dressage test.
- Jumping: final test of eventing, which involves 9 to 12 obstacles. The first jumping test determines team classification; second jumping test determines individual classification (see below). A test typically takes less than two minutes. Start order for teams is determined by reverse order of the results after the cross country test; athletes not competing on teams will go first in reverse order after the cross country test, followed by teams in reverse order of placement after the cross country test (so that the athlete to jump last will be the highest placed athlete from the highest placed team)
The 25 best placed athletes after the three portions of the team event (dressage, cross country, jumping) qualify to participate in the individual event – which consists solely of a jumping individual final (no additional cross country or dressage portions). The penalty score of this additional jumping test is added to the other three penalty scores from the team event to determine individual placement (so the athlete with the lowest total of penalty points wins).
Start order is determined by the reverse order of results after the three team tests (with the best-placed athlete going last).
In the case of a tie, individual classification is decided as follows:
- Best overall cross country score
- Cross country time closest to the optimum time
- Best individual final jumping score
- Further tie breaking procedures will be outlined in the manual
Dressage involves a set of compulsory movements performed by a horse/athlete combination which are intended to evaluate the horses’ obedience, flexibility and harmony with the athlete. Judges award marks for each movement. Teams are comprised of three athlete/horse combinations.
Qualification (Grand Prix) All 60 athletes compete in the “Grand Prix,” test which counts toward qualification for both the team event and individual event. Athletes are drawn into six groups of 10. The start order within each group is the reverse order of world rankings in that group (i.e., the member with the best world ranking in the group will go last in that group).
Team Final (Grand Prix Special) After the Grand Prix, the top eight teams (including any teams tied for 8th) will qualify for the team final (Grand Prix Special), which is set to music. The three athletes in each team will be divided into three groups, with one athlete per team in each group, determined by each team’s leader. In Groups 1 and 2, athletes’ starting order isbased on reverse ranking of the qualified teams in the Grand Prix competition. There will be a break (approx. 60 minutes) after Groups 1 and 2 have competed, and an intermediate team standing will be updated. In Group 3, athletes start in reverse order of those current standings, based on results of team athletes after Group 2.
Points are not carried forward from the Grand Prix (qualification). The team with the highest total number of points of their three athletes after their results in the Grand Prix Special wins gold.
Ties in the team final (Grand Prix Special)
Classification will be decided based on:
- The best result by the lowest scoring team member in the Grand Prix Special
- If there is still a tie, the same rule is applied to the next lowest scoring athlete
For teams placed 9th and below that do not qualify to the Grand Prix Special, the same rules apply to determine classification from the Grand Prix.
As mentioned above, the top two athletes from each of the six groups of 10 plus the next best six ranked athletes in the Grand Prix qualify for the individual final, called the Grand Prix Freestyle. Scores do not carry over. Start order in the freestyle test is determined by draw within three groups of six, with the group of athletes ranked 13-18 starting first and the group of athletes placed 1-6 going last.
The athlete with the highest final percentage in the Grand Prix Freestyle competition wins gold.
Ties in the qualification (Grand Prix)
Classification is decided as follows:
- Highest and lowest total scores for each athlete are added and divided by two, with the highest score deciding the tie
- If still tied, the second highest and lowest total scores for each athlete are used following the same procedure, then the third
- If still tied, the classification is decided by a draw
Ties in the individual final (Grand Prix Freestyle)
Classification is decided as follows:
- Artistic marks from the Grand Prix Freestyle are used to break the tie
- If still tied, marks for harmony will be used to break the tie
- If still tied, marks for choreography will be used to break the tie
The team jumping competition follows the individual competition and includes a team qualifier and final. A team consists of three athlete/horse combinations.
In each round of jumping competition, athletes jump a series of obstacles that could include water jumps, parallel rails, triple bars, etc., designed to test the athlete’s skill and the horse’s jumping capabilities. Penalties are given for faults such as knocking down an obstacle, refusals and exceeding the time allowed. Teams are ranked according to the sum of penalties incurred by each of the three athletes on the team. The winning team will have the lowest score.
Twenty teams compete in the qualifier. Team scores are based on the sum of the penalties of the three athletes on the team. Lower scores are better.
For starting order, teams are divided into two groups of 10 based on world rankings. The 10 teams with the most points will be in the group that starts last, and the 10 teams with the fewest points will be in the group that starts first. Start order within each group is determined by a draw, and the starting order of team members within each team is established by each team’s Chef d’Equipe. The first athlete in Group 1 will start, followed by the first athlete in Group 2, then the second athlete in Group 1, and so on.
The top 10 teams progress to the team final. Scores are not carried over.
Tie Break Rules – Qualifier
If there is a tie for the last qualification place, teams will be separated by the faster combined time of their three athletes.
Final Top 10 teams from qualification compete with scores awarded based on the sum of the penalties of the three athletes on the team.
Start order is based on reverse order of qualification results. After the first two athletes of all teams have taken part, there is a 20-minute break.
The team with the lowest sum of penalty points will win gold, second-lowest silver, and so on.
Tie Break Rules – Final
Classification will be decided as follows if there is a tie:
- Tie for first place (same number of penalties) will be broken by a jump-off. A jump-off is conducted against the clock on a course with at least six obstacles. The team with the slowest combined time starts first. Starting order in jump-off will be based on the combined times of each team’s three athletes in the team final, and the team with the slowest combined time starting first. If teams are tied on penalties for any other placement, they will be placed according to the combined penalties and time.
- If there is a tie for second or third place on penalties and time (and no more than two teams tied on penalties for first place), a jump-off will be held to determine those placements, and it will be held before the jump-off for first place if applicable. Starting order in jump-off(s) will be based on the combined times of each team’s three athletes in the team final, and the team with the slowest combined time starting first.
- Tie for all other places (same number of penalties) will be broken by the combined penalties and times of their three athletes in the jump-off.
Teams in the jump-off are placed according to the combined penalties of their three athletes in the jump-off. If after the jump-off teams are still equal on penalties and time for one of the podium positions, they will share the same place.
Individual competition includes a qualifier and a final and is contested over two days.
Up to 75 athletes compete in the individual qualifier, which is not run against the clock and includes 12-14 obstacles. Athletes who will compete in the team jumping competition are sorted into groups based on the Nations Cup rankings of their countries, with all members of the same team in the same group. Individual athletes who are only competing in the individual competition are sorted by world rankings. Both nations and athletes ranked highest will be in the final group; second-ranked nation or individual athlete in the group that starts second, etc. Starting order within the groups is decided by a computerized draw. The top 30 athletes advance to the final. No scores are carried over.
Ties in the qualifier
If there is a tie on penalties for the last qualification place to advance to the final, athletes are separated by time. If any athletes tied cannot be separated, they will all qualify for the final.
Thirty athletes compete in a single-round competition against the clock, and the athlete with the lowest sum of penalties wins. Starting order will be based on reverse order of classification in qualifiers.
Athletes are placed according to their penalties and times in the individual final. If there is a jump-off to break a tie (see below), athletes are placed based on their penalties and tie in the jump-off.
Ties in the final
- A tie for first place (same number of penalties and same time) will be broken by a jump-off against the clock. Start order is based on time in the final – slowest athlete starts first; faster athlete goes last. In the jump-off, athletes race against the clock over a minimum of six obstacles.
- If there are no more than two athletes tied on penalties for first place and there are athletes tied on penalties and time for second or third place, there will also be a jump-off for to decide those places. Start order for this jump-off will follow the same order as the individual final.
- If athletes have equal penalties and time in the jump-off, they will share the same rank.