Originally the 'three day event' was known as 'The Military' - a competition for serving Officers. Jumping was used to prove that a horse was still able to continue in service after the test of obedience (dressage) and stamina and courage (roads and tracks, steeplechase and cross country).
The FEI rule book states the course has to have 14-16 jumping efforts, no higher than 1.30m or spread wider than 1.65m. It must contain three double combinations or a triple and double combination and be no more than 600m long with ridden speed of 375m per minute. By taking the speed of 375m per minute, officials calculate the time in which the course has to be ridden. Completing the course under this time earns no bonus points, but for every second, or part of a second, over this time one penalty fault is incurred.
A normal stride for a horse jumping is 3.65m – much shorter than a cross country gallop. Course designers can decide on how many strides to place between each jump; normally fewer strides create a more difficult course. However, the distances between the fences can be slightly increased or decreased to test the riders' and horses' ability to adjust their stride.
This venue creates a unique challenge for both designer and competitor as the main arena site within a Grade 2* Listed Park and the surface slopes and ridges cannot be levelled to form a flat arena so that competitors are riding on a flat at times but also approach some jumps on a slope.
The 'trot up lane' presents a challenge as it cannot be crossed (for safety reasons) which prevents a jump being placed between it and the North Grandstand. The tracks worn by the horses in the dressage phase, which horses have been known to ‘jump’ thinking they are a small ditch are often where a designer will build jumps to prevent this from happening. In addition, there is always some damage to the surface caused by takeoff and landing of the horse during the cross country phase, which prevents any jumps being built in the those areas.
Taking all this into account the jumping course designer still has to fit in the required efforts, which is one of the challenges that makes Defender Burghley so special.