Early Days

Eventing Levels – Ironic Names

US Eventing Association Recognized levels:

Beginner Novice: ~ 2 ft 7 in
Novice: ~2 ft 11 in
Training: ~3 ft 3 in
Preliminary: ~3 ft 7 in (*)
Intermediate: ~3 ft 9 in (**)
Advanced: ~3 ft 11 in (***)
“Four Star” **** = super difficult, generally Olympic level/International Competition
Un-recognized lower/pre-levels (not regulated/heights not set):
Intro Beginner Novice:  1’8″
Easy Beginner Novice:  2’3″
Starter: 1’8″

Intro: 2′

As a newbie to the sport, I was shocked when I first learned the names of eventing levels. Considering myself a darn good rider before trying this sport (ie, I can stay on anything), it seemed crazy to me that all of the levels seem to be named some sort of synonym for Easy! The longer I’ve been in the sport, the more used to it I’ve gotten, so I’m sure that those who’ve been doing this a long time wouldn’t see what I’m seeing as a adult just getting into it. (Don’t worry, I’ve learned that riding skill isn’t just about keeping the horse between you and the dirt.)

But getting back to the misleading names… For example, you certainly can’t be a novice rider to ride Novice. Preliminary is hardly the first step. Training connotes training wheels. Beginner Novice sounds like “this is so easy, we had to have two synonyms for easy to describe it!” No wonder I still have a hard time keeping the order of the levels straight – they all pretty much have the same name! When I’m watching horse trials, I think to myself “that should be called Difficult rather than Novice.” I mean, people have DIED riding Intermediate! Doesn’t that merit a name change to “Deathly Dangerous”? What about Challenging, Difficult, or Olympic as level names?

At first I thought the whole star * rating system seemed confusing. But now I get it. Asterisks generally indicate that there’s fine print at the bottom of a description – a caveat. When you call something Preliminary then put a * next to it, you’re not as surprised to learn that it really isn’t “the first step” since the asterisk indicated a “However…” element. And, as in legal documents, more asterisks indicate even finer print, moved further to the bottom of the page.

To make things even more complicated, we’ve got CCI versus CIC: Concours Complet International (CCI) and the Concours International Combiné (CIC). According to Wikipedia, CCI Competitions are international three-day events, as opposed to a national competition or a one- or two-day horse trial. Contrarily, the CIC may be held over one day, and is thus considered an international one-day event. The CIC is held only at the one to three-star levels. There are no 4* CIC competitions.

The original difference between the two formats was that the 4 phases of cross-country (A, B, C, and D) were held in CCI competition, while CIC competition only ran the D phase. With the advent of the new format (which abolished phases A, B, and C), the FEI agreed to change the distances of the CCI to make it more difficult than the CIC competitions. Thus, CIC competitions have fewer obstacles on a shorter course than do CCI competitions.

It will be quite some time (perhaps forever) before I’m up to the international level of eventing, so I’m not too worried if I don’t have the CCI versus CIC down pat.  But I know that the original format (including roads & tracks and steeplechase) is making a come-back. What do we call those competitions? I’ll have to do some more homework.

1 comment on “Eventing Levels – Ironic Names

  1. Funny!!!!! As a newer dressage rider, I am frequently embarrassed to tell people that I am just leaving Introductory Level and am finally doing Training Level. Same idea! Beginner level to another beginner level? No matter how beginner it may sound, it is, as you stated, far more than keeping the horse between you and the dirt!

    Nice to meet you!


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