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.
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.