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Working Equitation

The new discipline making waves across the world!

Working Equitation is a fairly new discipline pioneered by four countires - Italy, Spain, France and Portugal. The first international competition was held in 1996 at the European Championships in Italy. In 2004 WAWE (World Association for Working Equitation) was formed as a governing body and the sport has since entrenched itself throughout Europe, USA, Great Britain, Brazil, Mexico and Australia with New Zealand looking to follow suit in the very near future. We are very lucky to have Sarah Blackburn running clinics in the South Island, Jo Evans running clinics from her home in Cambridge and Marie McAteer giving summer clinics throughout the North Island.The discipline was created as a way of promoting and preserving the traditional styles of riding and equestrian culture that have developed in countries where horses are used in different aspects of ranch and field work. It also acts as a showcase for traditional riding costumes and equipment within a competition atmosphere. These cultural and sporting aspects make for a truly unique sport.

The sport has four phases, with the first three Dressage, Ease of Handling and the Speed test required for both Team and Individual Competitions and the fourth, the Cattle Penning trail used only in team competitions.

Dressage Phase

This phase is very similar to a regular dressage test, but in a 20x40 arena and at the higher levels of the sport the test is performed one handed. Marks are given out of 10 for each of the prescribed movements and collective marks are awarded at the end for impulsion, compliance, calmness etc. The dressage phase tests the training of the horse and rider at a level relevant to the Ease of Handling test for each grade. The horse is required to be very forward and active yet light and attentive to the rider at all times.

Ease of Handling Phase

This phase is a course of obstacles set up to replicate the challenges faced by the horse and rider working in the field. The obstacles are approached at walk or canter depending on the obstacle and all are executed with only the left hand on the reins (at lower levels trot is allowed and both hands are used). The obstacles are number like in a showjumping round, but marked out of ten for each one, like a movement in a dressage test. The judge looks for the balance and control of the horse, its confidence approaching the obstacle and the accuracy and ease of which each obstacle is tackled.

Obstacles can include a bridge, slalom, double slalom, garrocha pole with bull and ring, small jump, opening and closing a gate, clover leaf barrels, side pass pole, stock pen, rein back L or Z, bell corridor etc.

The course is designed to test the rider and horse’s skill and control and to display both trust and empathy between the two. Accuracy, lightness and balance should be displayed from one obstacle to the next. Working Equitation is judges on the principles of classical riding with the horse working with the rider and responding to the lightest of aids.


Speed Test

This phase used the same obstacles as the ease of handling test but this time they are ridden at speed with no emphasis on style. Penalty seconds are given for any incorrect / mishandles obstacles. This test assesses the rider’s hand-eye co-ordination and the horse’s speed, attention and submission. It is very exciting to watch!

Cattle Test

This phase is only used in team events. It assesses the horse and rider’s ability to work with cattle. The combination needs to be able to sort and cut a cattle beast from the herd and then work with other team members to put it into a designated pen. This is a timed event.

Every four years there is a World Championship for Working Equitation. The first was in 2002 in Portugal with 7 countries represented. Portugal won the teams event and a Brazilian rider also mounted on a Lusitano was the individual champion.

In 2006 the championships were hosted in Lisbon with Portuguese horsemen taking oout the team and individual medals. In 2011 it was a similar story when held in France. There were 6 nations represented and Portugal again won team gold and Pedro Torres from Portugal was the overall individual winner. The most recent World Championship was held in Austria with ten nations in attendance. A clean sweep for Portugal once again with Portugal taking home both team and individual honours.

The main aim of working equitation is to have a functional horse that has a great relationship with its rider. All horses can benefit from the obedience and manoeuvrability required, and it is an enjoyable way to train your dressage or riding horse. It brings together riders from various disciplines including western, dressage and jumping and ponies, bitless horses and all breeds are also allowed and encouraged. Best of all it’s a whole heap of fun but be warned - it is much harder than it looks!

The Lusitano horse is sought after the world over for this sport - so it is little wonder that Jody has decided to train Ali Baba up to hopefully one day represent New Zealand at the World Championships. His intelligence and mobility make him perfect for the job. Jody also enjoys teaching this discipline and has a range of obstacles available to train you and your horse over. Clinics can be arranged New Zealand wide - contact Jody now for more information.