The Spectator’s Guide to the FEI Disciplines at the World Equestrian Games

by ELYSIAN Magazine

ELYSIAN’s Quick-Read Handbook on What to Expect at WEG 2018 in Tryon, N.C.

Here at ELYSIAN, we are getting giddier everyday as the World Equestrian Games draw ever closer. As an official media sponsor, we’re ready to be in the thick of the action.

We’ve cooed over the charisma of the Tryon mascots, Star and Huck, contemplated our WEG wardrobe and praised the beauty of Art of the Horse. Now it’s time to learn a bit more about the Games are all about.

Taking place every four years, mid-Olympic cycle, WEG seeks to bring prestige to equestriennes of all skill sets. The Games will feature athletes in eight FEI disciplines that require years of diligent training for rider and horse – and are some of the very few sports where men and women compete together. (How cool is that?)

Here’s a breakdown of what makes each discipline a sight to see and how the competition works:


During the jumping course, the goal is to get the least amount of penalty faults possible, which are given by knocking an obstacle or going over the allotted time. Being one of the three Olympic sports, it is one of the most popular equestrian to both watch and participate. A technical jumping course of about 10 to 16 obstacles set at five feet and three inches with a spread of up to six feet is difficult to make through “clean”, meaning with no faults.


Think ballet on a horse. The horse and rider perform a series of highly skilled movements in an arena in front of judges, and each movement is  judged on a scale of 0-10, and totaled with a percentage score. Most people would agree that dressage is the most disciplined equestrian sport. The horse and rider and are so intune with each other, a tiny touch of the the riders leg sends the horse gliding across the arena doing a piaffe, pirouette or passage and many other movements.


Following the same rules as dressage, the athletes compete in different competition levels based on their capabilities. It is incredible to see the communication between a para-equestrian and their horse.



Combining three disciplines in one, eventing is the triathlon of equestrian sports. It is the “ultimate test of the horse and rider.” The three-day event begins with dressage, then cross-country and finishes with show jumping. The key with eventing is being able to master all 3 of these disciplines in one rider-horse pair, because they are all extremely difficult in totally different ways. The delicacy and control needed for dressage counters the power and intensity needed for cross country coming back in with precision needed to complete a course of fragile fences in an arena.


In this discipline a three-member team drives the four-horse carriage. They compete in a series of three phases that model eventing, dressage, marathon and cones. Like in eventing the team must be able to show harmony in a dressage test then go through a challenging course with hills and water obstacles then do a narrow course with tightly placed cones. The sport is dynamic and high-adrenaline making it one of the most exciting disciplines to watch.



This long-distance competition is exactly as it sounds, the ultimate test of endurance for both the horse and rider. The checkpoints throughout the race make sure the health and stamina of the horse and rider are adequate.  The 100-mile competition is on the clock and is a test of both speed and stamina.



Balancing in a handstand on top of a cantering horse cannot be easy. Acrobatics on horseback makes for an incredibly beautiful and impressive sport to witness. The competitors are judged on how well they exhibit strength, balance and flexibility plus how well the horse moves during the performance. The gymnastic-like movements performed on horseback are dated all the way back to ancient Roman games.



Being the only western discipline  in WEG, reining has a special American beginning. The sport is designed to show the athletic ability of  ranch-style horses. In the wild west, horses were an everyday part of running a cattle ranch. The refined movements done in a competition arena closely follow those that were used when herding cattle over the range. 360-degree spins, flying lead changes, fast circles and sliding stops are all moves that show off how sturdy and quick the ranch horse needed to be while working.

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