WORKING​ EQUITATION – A complete sport

Partnership, timing, precision and speed are vital elements to an exciting sport which is currently making waves in the equestrian world – It’s Working Equitation!

Text Teresa Burton. Photo: Bruno Barata Photography, Susanne Wiederkehr, Stephanie Sali www.Paws-artist.de

Working Equitation is a multi-functional discipline where horse and rider are required to perform together through a series of trails. Since it’s all about a quality horse/rider partnership and is so accessible and fun, it’s no
surprise WE (Working Equitation) is rapidly gaining in popularity around the world.

Founded by four countries – Italy, Spain, France and Portugal, WE made its first appearance as an International competition at the Italian European Championships in 1996. The thinking behind the discipline was to develop a sport that preserved Europe’s rural traditional equitation skills. The type of riding that in days past was vital in the fields where the horse was an invaluable working partner. Although the sport has European origins it’s now gaining in popularity outside Europe, especially in the USA and Australia. It’s a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and riding levels.

“We consider it is a very complete sport. To do well in dressage, ease of handling, speed and cattle penning requires a well-trained horse and quality teamwork between horse and rider.”

João Ralão

In WE competition, there are three individual trials to accomplish. Dressage, Ease of Handling and Speed whereas in the team competitions a fourth trial is added, cattle penning. Also, at the higher levels, all four tests are ridden one-handed, most commonly the left hand leaving the right hand free to handle the ‘garrocha‘ or open a gate.

Advertisement

The Dressage trail is in a 40 by 20-metre arena and judged like an ordinary dressage test. Even though trot is seen at most levels, the emphasis is on walk and canter – considered in WE as the working gaits. The aim of the dressage test is to show the harmony between horse and rider. In the Ease of Handling Trial, also referred to as Manageability or Technique, the horse and rider tackle obstacles that resemble things or situations that might be encountered in the fields, such as opening and closing a gate, walking over a bridge, take a small jump or tackle situations that requires rein-back, lateral work and canter changes. Each obstacle is judged on a scale from 0 to 10, and the aim is to overcome the obstacles confidently, cleanly and precisely. The Speed Trial is ridden over the same obstacles but is not judged, instead, it’s a thrilling race against the clock testing the rider’s coordination and ability to anticipate, along with the attention, speed and skills of the horse. The Cattle Penning Trial is always performed by teams of three or four. One team member is responsible for separating a cow from a herd and, with the help from the other team members, herd it into a marked area.

The Working Equitation obstacles consist of:
1.Gate – to open and close
2.Bridge – canter over small wooden bridge
3.Single Slalom poles (normally 5 poles) canter through slalom performing changes
4.Parallel slalom poles – similar to above canter through slalom performing changes
5.Figure eight barrels – three barrels 3 metres apart approach in canter circle around first and figures of eight around other two with single changes
6.Three barrels triangle – similar to the figure of eight barrels
7.Livestock pen – canter around a small pen with geese, sheep or ducks inside
8.Side pass – moving laterally along a pole on a ground pole between the front and hind legs
9.Pick up a pole from a barrel and Spear a ring or knock down a ball then replace the pole in the barrel
10.Cup on a pole – with slalom poles at canter rider lifts cup and them they back through slalom and put cup on end pole
11.Bell at the end of corridor – L shape corridor to back into and ring the bell
12.Bale Jump – perform jump without hesitation and touching 13. Jug of water lifted from table and returned – approach at canter stop life jug over head or drink from it and replace

“WE is also proving to be a popular audience sport, in which was very evident at the 2016 European Championship held at the Pferd International fair in Germany where the trials attracted greater audiences than some of the other sports.”

João Ralão

Working Equitation is an activity everyone can enjoy. To train or compete in WE you don’t need to be a specific type of rider or at a certain level. Even if you have no desire to compete, the WE obstacles can be used to add variety to your everyday riding. No matter what the level, horses normally love it and the obstacles will help you test the quality of your training. You will learn movements that translate in many other riding activities. As the main aim of WE is to show a functional horse and to demonstrate a good relationship between horse and rider there is no need for a special horse breed either – although Lusitanos are demonstrating a natural aptitude, all kinds of breeds are seen competing even ponies. A good temperament together with attentiveness is the characteristics valued over gaits in a WE horse.

The precision required really puts the partnership and understanding between the horse and rider to the test. In all obstacles – opening and closing a gate, slalom with changes in every third stride or circles around barrels – you will have to plan your way carefully and stick to that plan in order to maintain the rhythm whilst achieving the obstacle. The centimetre precision needed makes it hard, really hard but it’s a great deal of fun.

EQUILIFE’ reporter Hanna Larson talked to the president of the world organisation of Working Equitation, João Ralão, to know some more about this growing sport.

“Working Equitation is a great sport, especially for its variety; the trials truly test the versatility of horse and rider. We consider it is a very complete sport. To do well in dressage, ease of handling, speed and cattle penning requires a well-trained horse and quality teamwork between horse and rider. Another great thing is that the sport on national level attracts many riders that otherwise might not compete. WE is not only about preserving a traditional style of riding but also the tack and clothing traditionally used. This gives international competitions a somewhat ethnographic and cultural aspect as each country the riders are dressed in their own traditional costumes and using their own traditional tack. WE is also proving to be a popular audience sport, in which was very
evident at the 2016 European Championship held at the Pferd International fair in Germany where the trials attracted greater audiences than some of the other sports. With good horsemanship as the strong underlying principle, we are very focussed on the welfare of the horses, therefore just like other professional sports WAWE ensure a vet is always
present at the paddock to check the horses.”

Hopefully, Working Equitation will continue to grow as there’s no doubt it’s a wonderful activity many riders around the globe can excel in. What’s more, it’s exciting for horses, riders and the audience.

LEARN MORE

Teresa Burton
Teresa Burton

Contributor

Being an adventurous spirit, Teresa has travelled the world, always willing to expand her mind to new opportunities and create new ideas. Her passion is to develop innovative, cutting-edge opportunities to take the Iberian horses into the modern world with the sensitivity and pride they deserve.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.