Without a doubt, the most challenging of all the equine competitive events must be the competition of eventing. Comprised of the three different equestrian events of dressage, show jumping and cross country, the event often takes place over three days and requires not only athleticism and endurance, but balance, intelligence and accuracy. One of the top breeds in the world in this competition is the Irish Sport Horse. At every level, from amateur to the highest international competition, it is not uncommon to find the best horses in eventing have some kind of Irish Draught blood running through their veins.
The three disciplines of eventing require the horse and rider to push themselves to their limits in order to succeed in three very different elements. The dressage, an event in and of itself that dates back hundreds of years, is an exercise in which the horse must perform a series of gaits or movements with a good sense of balance, rhythm and coordination with its rider. The Irish Draught tends to do well in this discipline, despite the fact that the horse is generally considered to be too heavy to do well in it. The truth is that the Irish Draught is really thought to be a middleweight, and not a heavyweight like larger horses like Clydesdales or Shires. When the Irish Draught is crossed with the Thoroughbred to create the Irish Sport Horse, the good temperament is combined with a good movement which helps the horse excel in the dressage portion of eventing.
The second part of eventing is the cross country, which takes the horse and rider through an outdoor course that tries to imitate a landscape that a horse and rider may find out in the country during a hunting section. There can be anywhere from twelve to forty fences of varying degrees, depending on the level of the competition, in addition to other obstacles such as ponds, streams, ditches, drops and banks, plus combinations of these obstacles that require not only athleticism on the part of the horse, but also a trust that the horse and rider must have in each other. The goal is for the horse to reach the finish line not in the fastest time possible, but within a predetermined time limit, which is called the optimum time. At lower levels, there is a speed fault time, while for all levels there is a penalty incurred for every second of lateness. The Irish Draught provides plenty of strength and stamina for completing a cross country course, while the speed is provided by the Thoroughbred for the Sport Horses.
Finally, the last part of eventing is show jumping, an event that both Irish Draughts and Irish Sport Horses excel in. In this discipline, anywhere from twelve to twenty fences are set up in an arena. Unlike cross country obstacles, elements of the fences in show jumping can be knocked out of place, which can result in penalties for the horse and rider. Show jumping is also timed, so horses that do not complete the course are penalized for every second over the allotted time. Thanks to the Irish Draught's natural jumping ability, temperament and accuracy, the horse is a natural in this part of eventing.