YEH Rules & Guidelines

Updated January 2023

Mission & Purpose

Young Event Horse (YEH) competitions offer classes for 4-year-old and 5-year-old. Horses are considered to be one year older on January 1 each year regardless of birth month. *New in 2024, there is an exception: Horses born in the Southern Hemisphere are considered to be one year older on August 1 regardless of their birth month.

  • 4-year-old classes are for horses attaining 4 years of age in the current calendar year.
  • 5-year-old classes are for horses attaining 5 years of age in the current calendar year.
  • YEH Championships: Horses born in the Southern Hemisphere will compete in the age category in which they are qualified

The goal of the YEH Program is to identify young horses that possess the talent and disposition which, with proper training, can excel in the uppermost levels of eventing. While the ultimate aim is to identify the future four- and five-star horses, many fine event horses which will excel at the lower levels may also be competing. The YEH Series gives owners and breeders the opportunity to showcase the potential of their 4- and 5-year-old horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top-level event horses for the future. Classes focus on education and preparation of the event horse in a correct and progressive manner.

YEH qualifying competitions have a dressage test followed by a jumping test. A conformation section is included in the YEH Championships in addition to the dressage and jumping tests.

Requirements to Compete

Membership in the USEA is required for both the horse and rider at YEH qualifiers and at championships. The rider must have a full competing membership. In order to maintain complete records, all horses competing in YEH competitions must be registered with the USEA to participate in YEH classes, at least at the Limited Registration Level. Breeders may choose a Lifetime USEA Horse Registration for horses in their birth year at a special reduced price.

YEH Qualifying Competitions

YEH qualifying competitions may be offered on the same date as a USEA Recognized Event or may be offered as a stand-alone competition. The date must be approved by the USEA and Area Chairman. Guidelines for running a USEA Test apply, including the need for qualified medical personnel to be present.

Judge Requirements: A YEH judge must officiate in the jumping phase. An additional judge may be used for the dressage phase. The additional judge must be either a USEF Dressage Judge, USEF Eventing Judge or a YEH Judge.

Organizer: The organizer may compete YEH horses at their own competition to obtain Championship qualifications, so long as they have appointed an assistant organizer to stand in to take responsibility of the YEH competition while the organizer is competing.

Time Schedule: In all cases, dressage will be run first followed by jumping. Allow about 8 minutes for each test. If one judge is used for the YEH Qualifying Competition, the jumping test will follow at the completion of the dressage test.

However, it is more likely that two judges will be used (one of which will be the YEH judge), i.e. one for the dressage test, one for the jumping test. In this case, organizers should allow a minimum of 45 minutes between dressage and jumping tests for each horse. The overall schedule must allow time for the YEH Judge to evaluate and approve the Jump course before the competition begins.

Scoresheets: Individual scoresheets will be provided to competitors after the competition, and a comparative scoresheet showing scores for all the horses in the competition will be posted on the scoreboard. In the case of a tie, the horse with the higher jumping score will receive the higher placing. If a tie still exists, the tie will not be broken, and the horses will remain tied.

Exercising & Warmup: USEF rules for saddlery will apply for exercising and warmup. ASTM/SEI helmets must be worn when mounted.

  • Dressage - The organizer may permit schooling at specified time(s), including in and around the dressage arena before their designated time.
  • Jumping - Prior to the start of their round, riders may show their horses the fences, including walking or trotting through the water complex. Competitors jumping any fences on the YEH competition course before their allotted ride time will be eliminated.


  • Dressage - Collared shirt with sleeves, breeches, boots and ASTM/SEI approved helmet. Spurs and whips are permitted as per dressage phase USEF Eventing Rules.
  • Jumping - Cross-country attire with safety vest and ASTM/SEI approved helmet. Spurs & whip are permitted as per cross- country phase USEF Eventing Rules.


  • Dressage - Only snaffle bridles per dressage phase in USEF Eventing Rules may be used. No boots or bandages are to be worn in dressage. Horses entering the space around the arena or the arena itself will be asked to have their boots or bandages removed. Use of jumping saddles is allowed and encouraged, as it may help a young horse's way of going and/or ease the change of tack required for the subsequent jumping phase.
  • Jumping - Boots and running martingales are optional for jumping. Equipment per cross-country phase in USEF Eventing Rules may be used, but the judge may penalize the need for overly severe equipment in the horse’s overall impression and/or rideability score, at their discretion.

Other Guidelines:

  • All horses participating must be issued a competition number, which must be worn at all times when exercising or competing.
  • Any unruly horse which endangers its rider/handler, other horses, their rider/handlers, the judges, or the ring crew may be dismissed by the judge.
  • YEH horses may be subject to drug testing and must be made available for testing if requested by officials or testing veterinarians.

Format: Young horses will complete two sections:

  1. Dressage, worth 30% of the total final score
  2. Jumping Test/Gallop/General Impression, worth 70% of the total final score

Dressage: Horses will perform a dressage test specifically written for YEH Qualifying Competitions. It will be judged on overall collective impressions, not by each individual movement. The horse will be scored on the walk, trot, and canter, as well as rideability.

A large (20 X 60 meters) dressage arena is preferable for YEH Qualifying Competitions because the additional space allows a clearer demonstration of the quality of the horses’ gaits. However, a small arena (20 X 40 meters) is permitted.

Horses leaving the arena during the dressage test will not be eliminated and are encouraged to continue but will receive a reduced score for rideability. Exception: Horses leaving the arena (all four feet outside the arena) at Championships will be eliminated.

Jumping (including Standards and Course Design Guidelines): The judge must be able to see all 15 jumps (five show jumping and 10 cross-country) from one vantage point. Horses will be evaluated in the following areas:

  • Jumping technique and scope;
  • Rideability, i.e. confidence, response to the aids, attitude and learning ability;
  • Between fences, i.e. maintaining a rhythm, appropriate pace, desire to go forward, ability to adjust balance before the fence, and jumping out of stride;
  • Open Gallop, i.e. desire to go forward, ground cover, balance, ease and efficiency of the gallop; and
  • Potential as a four or five-star event horse.

The jumping test will include a short show jumping section, giving the horses the opportunity to show their carefulness and scope. This test will be directly followed by a cross-country section. Horses should show a difference in pace between the show jumping and cross-country tests as well as a more efficient style.

The horse should be given the opportunity to show its athletic ability and gallop, as well as skills in assessing and negotiating the course as a whole. It is the responsibility of the designer of these courses to provide adequate questions for the horses to demonstrate their ability, as well as ensure no horse will be disillusioned to the sport after participating.

The standards of the jumping courses will progress throughout the year, increasing in height and difficulty in order to prepare each horse to arrive prepared for the YEH Championships in late fall. Each course must include a show jumping section of 5 jumps/efforts, and a cross-country section of 10 efforts, which should include water, a ditch, changing terrain (up/down bank and/or “jump on mound”) and/or a related combination. Combinations in each phase will count as separate jumps. Jumps that allow the horse to display its boldness are encouraged. Accuracy questions such as corners, chevrons, and skinnies with jumpable faces of less than 8’ must not be used. The course should always have a flow that allows for smooth riding. All cross-country fences should be inviting and ascending, and should in no way trick the horse, but give them confidence.

On both show jumping and cross-country fences, there should be fillers and ground lines. The final fence of the show jumping and cross-country sections should be a jump of ascending design which allows the riders to jump this fence out of stride. All jumps used in the jumping test should meet the same safety standards as any USEF Recognized Event. The gallop strip at the end of the jumping course should be approximately 100m long, preferably flat or with an uphill grade.

It is the responsibility of the organizer to ensure the course meets all requirements, including those for safety. The YEH Judge must give final approval of the course and will submit a post competition report to USEA.

Jump Course Guidelines for YEH Qualifiers:


Time of Year:

January - June
July - October
January - June
July - October
2'3" - 2'7"
2'7" - 2'11"
2'7" - 2'11"
2'11" - 3'3"
Approx. XC Speed:
325 mpm
350 mpm
375 mpm
420 mpm
  • Every fence is numbered separately, including water and each individual fence of a combination.
  • There must be five (5) show jumps (#1-5) and ten (10) cross-country fences (#6-15), i.e. 15 total jumps.
  • All combinations, including in show jumping, must be a minimum of two (2) strides.
  • If used, the combination in show jumping should be no earlier than #4.

Rules for Jumping: Each fence must be scored on style and scope. Horses will be scored 0.0-5.0 with 0.5 decimal points allowed. Each individual fence will receive a score with the following system:

  • 0 - Refusal
  • 1 - Very Bad
  • 2 - Bad
  • 3 - Satisfactory
  • 4 - Good
  • 5 - Excellent
  • Rail down - no higher score than 2

Eliminations: The following circumstances will result in Elimination:

  • Three refusals at one fence or four refusals total on the entire jumping course (show jumping and cross-country)
    • The elimination remains, but judges may permit the competitor to continue for education.
  • All jumps must be jumped in the correct order.
    • A technical elimination will be incurred if a jump is missed.
    • Exception - Provided the judge has no safety concerns about the horse and/or rider, they may blow the whistle if a rider misses a jump and allow them to correct their mistake and continue with no penalty.
  • Jumping any fence on the YEH course before their allotted ride time
  • Fall of horse or rider on course
  • Improper saddlery

YEH Championships

YEH Championships differ primarily from YEH Qualifiers because horses are evaluated on conformation in addition to their performance in dressage and jumping. The weighting of each section is as follows:

  1. Dressage - 20% of the final total score
  2. Conformation/Type - 10% of the final total score
  3. Jumping Test/Gallop/General Impression - 70% of the final total score


  • Qualified horses will be allowed to participate in one championship only.
  • East Coast Finals - Horses must earn a score of 75 percent or higher at one qualifier to qualify for the Championships.
  • West Coast Finals - Horses must earn a score of 70 percent or higher at one qualifier to qualify for the Championships.
  • The qualifications remain with the horse, and another rider may “catch-ride” a qualified horse at YEH Championships, so long as the rider is qualified to ride at the Training level.

Judge Requirements: Judges for YEH Championships will be appointed by USEA.

Time Schedule: Dressage will be immediately followed by the conformation phase. The jumping/galloping phase will be run last.

Conformation/Type Evaluation: Each horse will be stripped of tack and shown in hand to the judge. Horse must be shown in a snaffle bridle. Handlers are to stand their horse up in an open stance for inspection by the judge, who will assess conformation and type. The horse is judged on potential for soundness, speed, and stamina. Handlers will be asked to walk and trot the horse in a straight line for soundness and correctness. Handlers are required to wear an ASTM/SEI helmet.

The site for judging conformation should be level, with a straight strip at least 20 meters long. The footing should be dry and firm on a hard surface that is suitable for jogging. YEH conformation is judged on a straight line, similar to that of an FEI Horse Inspection.

Championship Rules: The rules for YEH Championships are the same as those for YEH Qualifiers with the following differences:

  • Dressage -
    • A large (20m x 60m) arena is required
    • The Dressage tests for the Championships differ from those used at Qualifiers.
    • Whips are permitted in the Championships as well as in the Qualifiers.
    • Horses leaving the arena will be eliminated.
  • Jumping -
    • Championship courses must include water, a ditch, and a terrain element (bank or mound).
    • Combinations will be marked (‘A’ and ‘B’) and will be scored as one effort. There will still be a total of 15 numbered jumps, but there will be more than 15 jumping efforts.
    • Two (2) option fences may be offered so that the horse’s potential for upper-level competition may be showcased. One of the options will be in the show jumping test (3’3” for 4-year-olds, 3’7” for 5-year-olds). The other option will be in the cross-country section, e.g. a more complex combination. Riders are free to choose whatever fence would show off their horse the best.
    • Horses missing a jump on either the show jumping, or cross-country course will receive a Technical Elimination.

Jump Course Guidelines for YEH Championships

2'11", except for the option fence in the show jumping test
3'3", except for the option fence in the show jumping test
Approx. XC Speed:
375 mpm
450 mpm

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