Working equitation is a relatively new equestrian sport. It only became an official competitive sport in the 90’s and is just starting to gain popularity in the New England area.
It originated in Spain and Portugal but has grown in popularity throughout Europe as well as South America and the US west coast. It's only a matter of time before it will grow here in New York!
Similar to eventing, working equitation has different “phases” to test the horse and riders abilities across a range of tasks. The highest scoring pair overall in each division, wins.
Because dressage is the basis of all this training, a dressage test is the first phase of competition. Navigating an obstacle course, let alone at speed, without a basic understanding of dressage would be far more challenging to the horse (and riders) confidence, and the purpose of all training is to develop confidence, especially in questionable situations.
Phase two is “ease of handling” (the first obstacle phase) which is judged on symmetry and style and is a test of the partnership between horse and rider. Obstacles are designed to imitate those one might find in the field when doing ranch work. Some examples of obstacles you might encounter include: crossing a bridge, opening and closing a gate, weaving through slalom poles to test agility, navigating the “livestock pen”, and jumping an obstacle.
Phase three is “speed” which uses the obstacles but is judged against time. A tidbit about working equitation is that the speed phase is for the most part, is more about extreme accuracy than actually running fast.
Phase four is cattle sorting. This is only available at a handful of shows, and is optional at this point in time but we hope it will become more common in the future!
An interesting aspect of working equitation is that it is not breed or style specific. You will find riders in dressage gear, eventing gear, western gear, and all things in between at a Working Equitation show.
There will be Andalusians, quarter horses, thoroughbreds, and warmbloods, and more, all competing and coming together on common ground.
It is great for building partnerships, spicing up your dressage game or building a foundation for the young horse. It is even engaging enough for the semi retirees to keep fresh. I invite YOU to try it out and meet a wonderfully diverse group of riders and horses! Without participation there is no sport!