Working equitation is a relatively new equestrian sport. It only became an official competitive sport in 1996 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!
The sport tests the horse and riders' ability to navigate various obstacles with style and grace. For this reason a dressage test is the first phase of competition. Obstacles are designed to imitate those one might find in the field when doing ranch work. Some examples of obstacles that you might encounter include: crossing a bridge, opening and closing a gate, weaving through slalom poles, navigating the “pen”, and jumping an obstacle. Phases two and three incorporate the obstacles.
Phase two is “ease of handling” which is judged on symmetry and style and is a test of the partnership between horse and rider. Phase three is “speed” which uses the obstacles but is judged against time. Phase four is cattle sorting and is only available at a handful of shows, and is optional at this point in time.
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. Try it out and meet a wonderfully diverse group of riders and horses.