Five Popular Disciplines of the South African Equestrian Federation – Dressage, Show Jumping, Endurance Riding, Eventing and Equitation

South African Equestrian Federation

The South African Equestrian Federation (SAEF) is the representative body for all equestrian sports in South Africa. The equestrian federation is registered with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), and SAEF is the representative body at the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). Since SAEF is the officially registered federation for equestrian sports under SASCOC, it must adhere to the rules and statutes of the FEI and the Sports Act. 

The federation must ensure compliance and adherence to the Sports Act, standards and regulations of SASCOC and Discipline Constitution in South Africa by its members. SAEF’s primary goal is to continue supporting disciplines with funding to enable and encourage the development of the sport. The five popular disciplines within the SAEF are dressage, show jumping, eventing, endurance, and equitation. 

SAEF’s equestrian team participated in the Olympic Games at Rio De Janeiro in 2016 in the following disciplines of dressage, show jumping, eventing, and endurance. The team will be attending the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina in September 2018. 

Find out more about five popular South African horse disciplines: Dressage, Show Jumping, Endurance Ride, Eventing and Equitation.

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Dressage is a method of competitive horse training with competitions held at all levels including amateur to the Olympics. The principal aim of dressage is to unlock a horse’s natural athletic through rigorous and liberal training methods. These training methods maximize the horse’s potential as a riding horse.

Dressage South Africa strives to elevate the sport to a premium caliber in South Africa. DSA works toward this goal by supporting South Africa’s dressage riders, horses, and officials to reach their potential regardless of age, location, experience, and socioeconomic background. DSA also encourages riders to compete to be selected for the teams to be sent to the Olympic Games and World Equestrian Games. One of the most important ways that DSA achieves is this is through the riding school leagues.

The riding schools league is available to all levels of competitors. The riding school league involves a dressage competition that is judged by a DSA Provincial judge. The first goal of this league is encouraging participation and interest in dressage, especially to help participants to compete in dressage and later on compete in graded events. The second goal is to make the riding school aware of the dressage events and help equestrians and spectators to attend the graded events.

Other advantages of the riding school league are:

  • Access to courses with assistance of a DSA Coach Developer.
  • Access to courses for judges, stewards, recorders, and show organizers.
  • Access to DSA Preliminary and Novice rider level courses in the regions.

The competition offered through the riding schools league is open to any rider who takes lessons at the riding school. It is also open to any rider that has a horse or participates in a half lease at the riding school. There should be a minimum of 6 riders (12 test entries) per show and a maximum of 25 riders (50 test entries) per show. Riding schools that are within proximity to each other may combine for the competition. Riding schools are only able to host a maximum of four league shows annually.

SASJ - South African Show Jumping

Show jumping is a part of a group of English riding equestrian events. Show jumping involves a single horse and rider pair going over fences built on a predetermined course design. 

These jumps are usually brightly colored and may have varying degrees of difficulty within a single course. Unlike cross country jumping, the jumps are not fixed or solidly built. In show jumping, the water feature is meant to be jumped over rather than jumped into as it is in cross country jumping. 

The horse and rider must be careful in their judgment on distance and timing between jumps to avoid knocking a fence rail down. If the horse refuses to go over a fence or knocks a rail down, it counts as a penalty against the rider’s time. The winner of a jumping class is determined by which horse and rider combination has the fastest time as well as the cleanest round.

Jumping classes are often seen at horse shows throughout the world including the Olympics. Show jumping events may be governed by several national horse show organizations such as the South African Equestrian Federation and the FEI.

The South African Show Jumping Association features combined horse and rider rankings, horse rankings, and high-performance rankings to allow its members to keep track of their standings throughout the show season. SASJ includes the competitive levels from children 80 cm to adult 1.50 m levels. SASJA also encourages and promotes riders to compete so that they may be selected for the teams to be sent to the Olympic Games.

Eventing, also known as horse trials, is an equestrian event where a single horse and rider pairing compete against other horse and rider pairings across dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. Eventing began as comprehensive cavalry tests that required the mastery of several types of riding. The competition may be completed in one day or across three days. During three-day eventing competitions, dressage begins on the first two days and then followed by cross country the next day. Show jumping is completed on the final day in reverse order from the dressage and cross-country tests.

In Eventing South Africa (ESA), the show holding body’s goal is to encourage the expansion of the sport in South Africa and ensure that all riders adhere and comply with eventing rules and regulations. It is also the association’s goal to ensure that all matters of the sport are performed with fairness, integrity, and good sportsmanship in mind, and to encourage and promote the highest standard of sporting behavior.

The following provinces encourage riders to compete in eventing to be elected to the teams to be sent to the Olympic Games and the World Equestrian Games:

  • Western Cape
  • Gauteng
  • Eastern Cape
  • Free State
  • Limpopo
  • Kwazulu Natal
  • Northern Cape
  • North West
  • Mpumalanga

ESA features endurance ride competition levels from pony riders, junior riders, to adult riders. The discipline also has rankings for ponies, junior level horses, and adult level horses.

ERASA - Endurance Ride Association of South Africa

Endurance riding is a horseback riding sport based on long-distance races. Endurance riding and races are internationally recognized. During an endurance ride, the horse must be periodically stopped for veterinary checks. The horse must pass all veterinary checks in order to continue the race. Any breed may compete however the Arabian horse usually dominates the top levels because of the breed’s stamina and natural endurance abilities.

The Endurance Ride Association of South Africa (ERASA) is devoted to being a dynamic, professional, and internationally respected equestrian sports association that strives for united membership with all endurance ride equestrians without neglecting the welfare of the horses.

The ERASA encourages all levels of participation in endurance rides:

  • Riders who participate solely for the enjoyment.
  • Riders who compete in endurance rides.
  • Beginner and experienced riders
  • Local, regional, national, and international level competitions.
  • Rider participation under ERASA and FEI rules and regulations.

In the ERASA, only endurance rides of 30km and longer are categorized as endurance rides and are eligible for certificates, distance awards, and medals. In this endurance ride association, there are two types of rides: non-competitive rides and competitive national rides. These types of rides are categorized as follows:

Non-Competitive Rides

  • Rides of up to 40 km
  • Open to members and non-members of ERASA
  • Step ladder rides (rider/horse combination enter non-competitively)

Competitive National Rides (CEN)
CEN 3 Star

All rides of:

  • 140-160 km in one day
  • 90-100 km per day over two days
  • 70-80 km per day over three days or more

CEN 2 Star
All rides of:

  • 120-139 km in one day
  • 70-89 km per day over two days

CEN 1 Star

All rides that are 80-119 km in one day

All National Championship rides will be decided by Council regarding format and CEN star level. One incentive to participate in ERASA is that all rides of 80 km and longer are considered as qualifying rides for entering in the Fauresmith 200 National Championships. Rides that are longer than 80 km over more than one day are considered as a single qualifying ride.

Equitation refers to the rider’s position while riding a horse. This discipline also encompasses the rider’s ability to ride correctly and ride with efficient aids. In equitation classes, the rider is judged more so than the horse. The rider is usually judged on their performance and ability to control the horse, use of riding aids, correct riding attire, proper form, and the overall appearance of the horse and rider combination. The judging criterion on the presence of the pair covers the rider’s poise, the cleanliness and polish of the horse, as well as the tack, and riding equipment.

The horse does not have to be proficient in show jumping, dressage, or cross country for the rider to benefit from participating in equitation. The horse will begin to perform better as the rider improves their riding skills. The standard challenge for beginner riders is to show to the extent that their ability will allow without riding an outstandingly skilled horse.

A good equitation rider is always in harmonious balance with the horse and maintains the correct position in every gait and movement. The rider must always maintain this balance even when they are going over fences. Equitation riders must have a commanding yet relaxed presence and be able to direct the horse with seemingly invisible riding aids. By definition, this discipline is the art and practice of horse riding and horsemanship. It is for all riders regardless of age or experience. The competitions are structured so that each competitor receives invaluable critique from qualified judges.

Equitation was brought to South Africa in the 1970s by Mrs. Charlotte Stubbs. Mrs. Stubbs introduced equitation with the intention of helping riders improve their skills as well as be able to provide feedback to riders that did not have access to regular or fundamentally correct instruction.

The SAEA caters to all levels of equitation from 10 years old and under to adults. This also includes the divisions of Beginners to the Open levels. If the equitation class involves fences, the heights of the jumps are changed according to the age group and the level of each competition.

SAEA’s goal is to continue the goal of equitation which is to educate riders while setting a national standard for true horsemanship. The SAEA will achieve this goal by continually promoting and encouraging the improvement of efficient and proper riding through seminars, competitions, clinics, and qualified judges. The association encourages riders to grow and develop their skills from local levels to the graded levels and on to the Open and international level.


The following as also recognised by SAEF, click the link for more information:

Horse riding disciplines – Tentpegging, Showing, Western Mounted Games and Vaulting

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