Equestrian eventing was created to test military horses and was a way to compare the calvaries of varying countries. Riders had to be officers in the cavalry to compete. It was used both recreationally and for the training of military horses. This transformed into the competition seen today, as it made its permanent competitive debut in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm.
Modern eventing is now recreational and includes non-military riders. Horses and riders go through three phases of competition: dressage, cross country and show jumping. Each phase tests a different ability of horse and rider, and all of the phases together test the connection and bond between horse and rider. The first phase, dressage, is competed on the first day of competition. The second phase, cross country, will often occur next with the third phase of show jumping happening shortly after, or on the third day in some competitions.
Equestrian eventing has been defined as an equestrian triathlon, where each phase brings a unique challenge to both horse and rider. The first phase is meant to show a bonded connection between the horse and rider through obedience, poise, and control. The second phase shows more of the physicality and courage of rider and horse as they move through obstacles and jumps in outdoor terrain. The last phase shows precision as horse and rider must scale jumps and make tight turns in a ring.
While originally only a male sport because of its military background, equestrian eventing now consists of both men and women competing alongside one another instead of in separate competitions. The first woman rider joined the competition in the Helsinki Olympic Games in 1952. Riders and horses are challenged both physically and mentally to maintain high performance over two to three days and a variety of challenges, with the winner being the couple with the best all-around performance in balance, stamina, and precision.