USEF/USEA Level Definitions

Beginner Novice

The Beginner Novice level is designed to introduce green horses and riders to Horse Trials, combining dressage, cross-country and Beginner jumping tests. It is designed for competitors and horses that have already had experience schooling competitions in all three disciplines. The entire experience should be safe, inviting and educational to build confidence and a desire to progress. Competitors should be prepared to do a walk, trot and canter dressage test with 20-meter figures and a halt. The cross-country should include a variety of introductory obstacles, including a bank-up, a shallow natural ditch, an inviting water crossing and a brush. Obstacles must have a minimum of two strides between two numbered obstacles. Such combinations of straight forward efforts are the only obstacles composed of several elements that are permitted. The jumping course should be inviting and straightforward and may include one double of two strides. Jumps can reach the height of 2’7”.


The Novice Level is a continuing introduction to Horse Trials. It is designed for competitors and horses with some experience at lower levels or for experienced riders and horses new to the sport. The dressage will not differ greatly from Beginner Novice. The cross-country will invite bold, forward movement involving galloping in balance and jumping out of stride. The obstacles will be more substantial and may include a drop, a double, and a simple obstacle out of water. At such water obstacles, the exit shall not be revetted. The jumping course shall include a double and a variety of straight and spread fences, which may include a triple bar. Jumps can be up to the height of 2’11”.


The Training Level is an elementary examination of competitors and horses with some experience and training. The dressage test may ask for further development of the basic gaits, including lengthening at the trot and canter, as well as 10-meter trot and 15-meter canter figures. The cross-country should include obstacles formed of two, or possibly three, elements involving the previously introduced banks, drops and ditches. Jumps into and out of water and narrow fences should be introduced. While these questions are becoming more sophisticated, they must remain positive and inviting in nature. The jumping course shall include two doubles or a triple, a variety of turns, and sequences of various types of obstacles. Jumps up to the height of 3’3”. Training Three-Day- A long-format event held at the training level.


The Preliminary Level is a moderate examination of competitors and horses in a regular training program preparing for One Star Events. The dressage test may include medium paces at the trot and canter, as well as the introduction of leg yielding, shoulder in, rein back, and changes of lead through the trot. The cross-country should include tests of accuracy, agility, boldness, control, judgment and jumping ability. Obstacles may now include angled lines, corners, simple bounces, slopes, and combinations involving water or narrow fences. The jumping course shall include two doubles, or a double and a triple, and may incorporate alternative obstacles. It will emphasize quickness of recovery, and may require lengthening or shortening stride. Jumps can reach the height of 3’7”. Preliminary Three-Day- A long-format event held at the preliminary level.


The Intermediate Level is an examination of increasing technical difficulty preparing competitors and horses for Two Star Events. The dressage test may include canter to halt and walk to canter transitions, as well as turns on the haunches, simple changes, and counter canter. The cross-country should now combine in more elaborate settings the tests introduced at the Preliminary Level, such as combinations with more than one question to be solved. Obstacles to be expected include banks, ditches, or water with narrow elements, a bounce combined with other elements, or corners in a combination. The jumping course will include more related distances, and emphasis will be placed on lines of obstacles with jumps up to 3’11”.


The Advanced Level is the highest national level of Horse Trials. It offers tests of significant difficulty designed to prepare competitors and horses for either Three or Four Star Events. The dressage test may include extensions in all three paces, half pass at the trot and canter, and single flying changes. The cross-country should be clearly a test of boldness and scope as it now combines size (3’11) with technical difficulty. Combinations with multiple questions are to be expected, such as bounces into water, coffins with short distances or significant slopes, and bending lines or related distances between narrow questions. The jumping course will similarly relate virtually all obstacles, distances and turns with jumps up to 4’11”.