What Is Working Equitation?
Working Equitation is a sport which offers a fun and creative alternative to the more traditional equestrian disciplines; challenging and training both rider and horse in multiple riding skills and techniques. Acting as a showcase for traditional riding costumes and equipment, the sport is non-discriminative, welcoming competitors from every breed and discipline and encouraging all riding levels and ages.
The sport is a representation of the working horse; developing and advancing the training of both horse and rider. It draws on all the basic skills required to work a farm, ranch or livestock, yet still encompasses the fundamentals of traditional dressage, but done in a working style which requires riders to demonstrate their horsemanship capabilities by showing off their skills and developed riding techniques.
Founded in Europe and overseen by the world regulatory body, WAWE; World Association for Working Equitation; Working Equitation as a competitive sport has taken hold on a worldwide scale and is rapidly becoming a popular preference for riders throughout Australia.
Competition events may be individual or for teams, and are in three or four phases. All Phases are designed to test the attributes and correct training of horse and rider. At lower levels, all phases can be ridden using two hands. The long-term objective however; and a requirement at higher levels; is to ride all events one-handed and 100% accurately!
The Four Phases consist of;
Ease Of Handling (with obstacles – known also as Style, Manageability or Maneability)
Speed (with obstacles)
The Dressage Phase is a working dressage test which requires horse and rider to perform a sequence of specified movements. They must maintain regularity and correctness of movement and pace, whilst giving attention to impulsion, roundness, lightness of aids and the subtleness of relaxation of both rider and horse. This is performed in a 20 x 40 Dressage Arena.
The Ease Of Handling (EOH) trial can be compared to a gymkhana-type event in which horse & rider must tackle a course filled with obstacles similar to those which are likely to be encountered in the field, or day-to-day work on the farm; e.g. bridges, gates, barrels, variant surfaces etc. Obstacles are numbered in order of execution and markers, known as ‘transition markers’, are placed a little apart from each obstacle. These must be passed by horse & rider and indicate the start and finish of the obstacle. Each obstacle must be completed accurately and in order and no obstacle may be omitted. The obstacle course is designed to demonstrate the harmonious partnership and physical mastery of horse and rider in a working environ. This is not done ‘at pace’ and indeed it is advisable to take one’s time and maintain fluidity, whilst preparing in advance for each obstacle as you choose the smoothest lines possible.
The Speed Phase, is generally a similar obstacle course to that found in Ease Of Handling, but usually shortened. This must be completed in the quickest possible time. There are no transition markers in the speed trial. This phase is judged solely on the time taken to complete the course, however it must be ridden as accurately as possible, while demonstrating the skill of horse and rider at speed. Time penalties are given for errors of course. Time bonuses are often granted for the showing of certain more difficult skills, such as the knocking of a ball or collecting rings at pace with a garrocha stick.
The Cattle Phase is designed only for team competitions. It is a timed event and consists of a team of four riders. Each is required to separate a specific numbered cow from a herd of cattle. The rider must then herd it across a marked half-way point, and may only then draw on the assistance of fellow team members as they attempt to fulfil the objective of herding only that cow into a designated pen. All other cattle must be prevented from crossing the half-way markers. The successfully penned cow is then returned to the herd and so commences the next riders turn. This is a timed event and the quickest overall team is the winner. An overall individual fastest rider score is also recognised. A dismount by any rider, for any reason, will result in instant elimination of the team. All riders have a maximum of three minutes to pen their designated cow.
There are 8 Competition Levels in Working Equitation, ranging from Lead Line to Masters. Each Level encompasses 4 Divisions; Child, Junior, Youth and Open.